Trial of former Nazi guard collapses over his health

Judges end proceedings in trial of former SS guard at Stutthof due to questions about his health.

Elad Benari,

Stutthof concentration camp
Stutthof concentration camp
iStock

The trial of a former Nazi concentration camp guard collapsed on Thursday due to questions about the 94-year-old defendant's health, The Associated Press reported.

Johann Rehbogen, a former SS guard at the Stutthof concentration camp, has been hospitalized for heart and kidney issues, causing several recent hearings at the Muenster state court to be canceled, the report said.

Due to German legal regulations preventing overly long gaps in trials, the court had no choice but to end the proceedings, said court spokesman Steffen Vahlhaus.

Presiding Judge Rainer Brackhane ruled that a medical expert will re-examine Rehbogen in January to determine whether his condition has improved to the point where the trial can be restarted from the beginning, Vahlhaus said.

Rehbogen went on trial in November and is accused of complicity in mass murder at the Stutthof camp in occupied Poland.

He is accused of serving as a guard at the Stutthof camp, east of Danzig, which is today the Polish city of Gdansk, from June 1942 to about early September 1944. More than 60,000 people were killed in the camp and he faces hundreds of counts of accessory to murder on allegations that, as a guard, he aided in the process.

Rehbogen had appeared outwardly healthy when his trial opened on November 6, listening attentively to the proceedings and answering basic questions from the judges, according to AP.

In a statement to the court read by his attorney, Rehbogen told the panel of judges in one session that while he served at Stutthof, he was "not a Nazi." He suggested that he knew prisoners were being mistreated, but denied any knowledge of the camp's gas chamber or any participation in killing them.

His case is one of many to have been opened against suspected Nazi war criminals in recent years.

The crackdown 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. He died in 2012.

Some of those convicted of Nazi-era war crimes never served their sentences as they passed away before being jailed.

One such convict, Reinhold Hanning, was found guilty of complicity in the mass murders at Auschwitz. However, Hanning died at the age of 95 last year, before he could serve his jail term.

In a similar case, Oskar Groening, known as the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, died in March before he could begin serving a four-year prison sentence after being convicted for the crime of accessory to the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz.




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