Sachsenhausen concentration camp
Sachsenhausen concentration camp iStock

A 100-year old former concentration camp guard has gone on trial in Germany for being complicit in the deaths of 3,518 prisoners at Sachsenhausen, BBC News reported.

Seventy-six years after the end of World War II, Josef S is the oldest defendant to be tried in a court for crimes committed during the Nazi era.

He is accused of participating in the shooting of Russian prisoners of war and the murder of other inmates with Zyklon B gas.

The Sachsenhausen concentration camp operated from 1936 to 1945, during which 200,000 people, many of them political prisoners along with Jews, were imprisoned there.

Referred to as Josef S due to German privacy laws, the defendant’s trial is being held under tight security. He arrived at the courthouse in a wheelchair and carrying a briefcase. He hid behind a blue folder held up by his lawyer as he entered the court so photographers could not take a photo of his face.

Josef S was 21 when he became a guard at Sachsenhausen in 1942. He will soon turn 101 and it has been determined that he will be able to appear in court for up to two and a half hours per day. His trial will continue into January.

On Thursday, Josef S’s lawyer said his client would not testify about the crimes he is accused of, but would only comment later about the circumstances that led to him becoming a guard at the death camp.

Commenting on the thousands of murders that occurred at Sachsenhausen between 1941 and 1945, prosecutor Cyrill Klement said: "The defendant supported this knowingly and willingly – at least by conscientiously carrying out guard duty, which was perfectly integrated into the killing regime."

In 1943, a gas chamber was installed at Sachsenhausen. Near the end of the war, 3,000 inmates were murdered by mass shootings, poison gas and exhaustion, the prosecutor said.

There are 17 co-plaintiffs in the trial, some of whom are survivors of Sachsenhausen.

Survivor of the death camp Leon Schwarzenbaum, who is 100-year old, described the trial as the “last trial for my friends and acquaintances and my loved ones who were murdered.”

Those in the courtroom also expressed dismay that Josef S refused to speak to the evidence against him.

In September, a 96-year old Nazi death camp worker attempted to flee Germany before her trial began.

Irmgard Furchner was charged with being an accomplice to thousands of murders. Furchner, who lives in a home for the elderly in Hamburg, Germany, was a stenographer at the Stutthof concentration camp located near Danzig.