Hans Lipschis was charged with 10,510 counts of accessory to murder, but the 94-year-old suspected former Auschwitz guard may be off the hook. According to a statement released by a German court last week, Lipschis has been deemed unfit for trial due to suffering “worsening dementia.”
After decades of living in the United States and lying about his identity, Lipschis was deported to Germany in the 1980s to face trial over allegations he served as an SS guard at Auschwitz between 1941 and 1943. Though Lipschis acknowledged that he was assigned to be an SS guard at Auschwitz, he maintained that he served as only a cook and he wasn’t involved in any war crimes.
Lipschis’ attorney, Achim Baechle, told the Associated Press, “I assume the prosecutors will appeal the court’s decision, but I think the decision is absolutely correct.”
The Lipschis case follows closely on the heals of a German police raid two weeks ago, in which police entered the homes of nine men between the ages of 88 and 94 who are suspected of serving as SS guards at Auschwitz. Three men were arrested for the charge of accessory to murder, and police are looking for evidence to arrest three more.
The raid was part of a German investigation into 50 suspected former Auschwitz guards, 40 of whom were discovered to be alive and living in Germany. Their advanced age, however, presents various legal obstacles to trying them, as the Lipschis ruling makes clear.
Efraim Zuroff, lead Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he hopes this case will serve as a “wake-up call” for prosecutors to prioritize the other new Auschwitz cases.