Alleged U.S. Nazi Dies Before Extradition
An 89-year-old American and alleged Nazi war criminal died just hours before a U.S. court approved his extradition to Germany, his lawyer told AFP on Wednesday.
Johann Breyer, a retired machinist born in Czechoslovakia, admitted joining the Waffen SS at the age of 17 but denied being a guard at Auschwitz, the concentration camp in German-occupied Poland.
Breyer was arrested in June on charges of aiding and abetting the killing of 216,000 Jews while he was a guard at the Auschwitz death camp.
"I can confirm he passed away last night," his lawyer Dennis Boyle told AFP.
Breyer died after being transferred from prison to hospital when the court ordered his release on Monday due to his declining health, which had deteriorated while in custody, Boyle said.
News of his death emerged as the court on Wednesday ordered that he be extradited to Germany to stand trial.
Breyer insisted he was only in a field artillery unit of the Waffen SS and deserted weeks later after serving in the vicinity of Auschwitz, but not as a prison guard.
He also spent time in a Russian prisoner-of-war camp at the end of World War II.
Magistrate Timothy Rice denied Breyer bail when he first appeared in court in June due to the severity of the charges.
Boyle told AFP last month that his client was in poor health, suffering from dementia and heart problems, and had already had a couple of strokes.
Germany recently began a crackdown on former Nazi war criminals and in March made several arrests of suspected criminals.
Some 220 others are still being investigated for possible charges but have not been located.
The series of arrests comes following the 2011 Munich trial of John Demjanjuk, a Nazi war criminal charged of assisting in the murder of 28,060 people at the Sobibor death camp and sentenced to five years. He died in 2012.
Germany said in May that some 20 former guards at the Majdanek death camp could face charges, following a widespread probe of the Nazi SS men and women who served there during World War II.