Trial of former SS medic stalls again

German court again suspends the trial of 95-year-old Hubert Zafke, a former medical orderly at the Auschwitz death camp.

Nissan Tzur ,

Haim Zach/GPO

A German court on Monday once again suspended the trial of a 95-year-old former medical orderly at the Auschwitz death camp, the latest in a string of delays which has sparked anger, AFP reports.

The latest halt marks the fifth time that the court case against Hubert Zafke has been put on hold since the first hearing in February because of concerns over his health.

The trial finally opened a week ago, where the court was told the retired farmer has suffered from stress and high blood pressure and had suicidal thoughts.

Months into the attempt to prosecute him for at least 3,681 counts of accessory to murder, no evidence has been heard and the trial hangs by a thread.

On Monday, Zafke, sitting in a wheelchair, was brought by one of his four sons into the courtroom in the northeastern lakeside town of Neubrandenburg, where the hearing was once again focused on procedural issues.

Prosecutors put a motion for judge Klaus Kabisch to recuse himself, after a previous application by civil plaintiffs was rejected.

Prosecutors say that Kabisch is biased because he had been unwilling to start the trial in the first place due to Zafke's poor health, before being overruled by a higher court.

Less than two hours later, without commenting on the new application against him, the judge adjourned the hearing without setting another court date.

The examination of the latest motion could take "three weeks", he said, according to AFP.

Victims' lawyers, meanwhile, have grown increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress in the case.

"The co-plaintiffs have abandoned all hope that a trial that is anything other than a farce will actually start one day under this presiding judge," their lawyers, Thomas Walther and Cornelius Nestler, said in a statement last week.

The International Auschwitz Committee, a group representing camp survivors, has also sharply attacked Germany's handling of the case, saying the court was hurtling "between sloppy ignorance and complete disinterest" in a resolution.

Zafke's trial is one of several against Nazi war criminals in recent years, as German prosecutors have attempted to bring surviving Holocaust perpetrators to justice while there is still time.

The crackdown on Nazi war criminals began 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.

The charges against Zafke focus on a one-month period in 1944 when 14 trains carrying prisoners -- including the teenage diarist Anne Frank -- arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Prosecutors have said Zafke was aware that the site in Nazi-occupied Poland was an extermination camp.