The elderly Josef Schütz, once an SS guard, was sentenced today for assisting in the murder of some 3,500 people at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He is the oldest person convicted of Nazi war crimes in Germany, and his sentence brought to an end one of the last remaining Nazi trials. Because of his health and age, the man is unlikely to serve any prison time.
Prosecutors had said Josef S., a member of the Nazi party’s paramilitary SS, helped to send 3,518 people to their deaths at the Sachsenhausen camp, north of Berlin, by regularly standing guard in the watchtower between 1942 and 1945.
Josef Schütz was born in Lithuania on 16 November, 1921. By 1942, he was working in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where one of his duties was being stationed in the watchtower. He remained at the camp until the end of the war in 1945.
After the war, he was released as a prisoner of war in 1947, after which he moved to East Germany where he worked as a locksmith.
He was at one point married, but in 1986 became a widower. By 2021, he lived in the northeast state of Brandenburg, Germany.
The trial took nearly nine months as doctors had said he was only partially fit to stand trial, and sessions were limited to two and a half hours a day.
Some people interned in Sachsenhausen were murdered with Zyklon-B, the poison gas also used in other extermination camps where millions of Jews were killed during the Holocaust.
During the trial, Schütz stated he did “absolutely nothing” wrong and was not aware of the atrocities happening at Sachsenhausen.
Instead, he stated he worked as a “farm labourer near Pasewalk in northeastern Germany during the period in question”, a claim which the court rejected.
The court used historical documents to prove he worked at the camp and was a non-commissioned officer in the Waffen-SS.
READ MORE: Boris Johnson compares Russia to Nazi Germany