Hans Lipschis, a 93-year old being tried for Nazi war crimes, was released by German courts in Berlin Friday after being under arrest since May.
An investigation was launched against Lipschis after evidence surfaced earlier this year alleging that he was involved in the mass genocide of Jews in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. He was taken into custody in Aalen after prosecutors concluded there was "compelling evidence" that he had been complicit in murder, according to a BBC report.
The court, however, determined that the accused was "unfit to stand trial," after undergoing several physical and mental tests. According to The Huffington Post, the accused was determined to be suffering from the onset of dementia and thus would be incapable of understanding events as the trial progressed.
It is unclear whether or not the case will close completely due to the setback.
Jewish groups expressed outrage at the decision, citing this as evidence that proceedings against war criminals need to be expedited as the years go on, according to The Voice of Russia.
The arrest was set in motion by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who published his name on a "Wanted" list for yet-unprosecuted Nazi war criminals. The organization accused him of participating in the mass murder and persecution of innocent civilians, primarily Jews, at Auschwitz between October 1941 and 1945.
After the war, he escaped Germany, fleeing to Chicago in 1956. While Lipschis was deported to Germany in 1984, he continued to live there without any legal proceedings set in motion against him - and in relative comfort, critics claim. His identity only surfaced last year, when a letter in a local paper led to an interview. There, he claimed that he did work in the death camps - but only as a cook.
However, an intensive investigation by German law enforcement later revealed that he served in the SS-Totenkopfverbände - or "Death's Head" unit of the SS - which kept the concentration camps operating at "peak efficiency."
The precedent on which he was arrested follows new laws since the arrest and trial of Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk, which allow for an arrest to be made on the grounds of participating in the death camps at all - not just for participation in murder itself.
Demjanjuk was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of 28,060 Jews while he was a guard at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland. His case means that potential defendants might no longer be able to hide behind the argument, in court, that they were simply following orders.