German police raided the homes of nine men between the ages of 88 and 94 who are suspected of serving as SS guards in Auschwitz, the AP reports. Three of the men were arrested, while police are looking for evidence to arrest three more the charge of accessory to murder.
According to the Guardian, “The three elderly men underwent medical tests and then faced a judge who confirmed their fitness to be detained in a prison hospital.” As Die Welt explains, in order to secure an indictment, complicity must be proven and the accused must still be fit to stand trial.
The AP also reports that of the six men under investigation, five made no statements, but one 88-year-old “admitted being a guard at Auschwitz but denied committing any crimes.”
Until 2011, this might have worked as a defense. But these arrests come on the heels of the historic trial of former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk, who was convicted of serving at the Sobibor camp. Before Demjanjuk, only those who could be shown to have personally committed atrocities were persecuted. The AP reports that, in that case, “Munich prosecutors successfully argued that anyone who was involved in operating a death camp was an accessory to murder.”
German authorities began an investigation last summer into 50 suspected former guards, 40 of whom were eerily enough discovered to be alive and living in Germany.
Batya Ungar-Sargon is a freelance writer who lives in New York. Her Twitter feed is @bungarsargon.