30 alleged Auschwitz death camp guards should be charged, prosecutors say

Former Auschwitz guards could be tried 1:52

Thirty alleged Nazi guards should face charges over their role at the Auschwitz death camp seven decades ago, prosecutors in Germany said Tuesday.

Investigators considered the cases of 50 alleged guards at the World War II concentration camp, and have decided that 30 of them should be brought to justice, officials in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said in a statement.

The cases have now been passed from special investigators to state prosecutors who can bring charges.

Most of the suspects are aged in their 90s and live in various parts of Germany, including the former communist East.

Some 1.1 million Jews and other persecuted groups were killed in gas chambers or died of forced labor or starvation at the Auschwitz camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

More than 6,000 SS workers served there, but for many years German courts only pursued Nazi war criminals if evidence showed they had personally committed atrocities.

However, Nazi hunters were given fresh hope by a German court's landmark ruling in 2011 that made it simpler to prosecute cases by opening the door to charges of "accessory to murder."

John Demjanjuk, an Ohio autoworker who lived in the U.S. for years after the war, was convicted of 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder and sentenced to five years in prison after a court ruled he could be convicted on the basis of his service record alone.

He was found to be complicit in the extermination of more than 28,000 Jews at the Sobibor camp, where he had served as a guard.

Warsaw ghetto uprising brought to stunning life 1:24

His case also inspired the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center to launch a campaign earlier this year called "Operation Last Chance II" that aims to root out surviving Nazi war criminals and bring them to justice before they die.

Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, believes somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of Nazi war criminals have ever been brought to justice.

The Auschwitz announcement came a day after a 92-year-old former Nazi went on trial 69 years after allegedly shooting a Dutch resistance fighter in the back at the end of World War II.

Siert Bruins, who served with the Nazi Waffen-SS, appeared in court in the western city of Hagen with a walker.

Bruins is accused of killing Aldert Klaas Dijkema, but claims that although he was present during the murder, another soldier shot him. That soldier has since died.