One of Germany’s last prosecutions for Nazi-era crimes has ended after a 96-year-old former paramedic at Auschwitz was deemed unfit to stand trial due to dementia. He had been accused of being an accessory to the murder of 3,681 people.
Zafke worked at the death camp for one month in 1944, when at least 14 deportation trains arrived from places including Lyon, Vienna, and Westerbork in the Netherlands. He is not accused of being directly involved in the killings, but of being aware the camp facilitated mass murder.
The end of the trial is the latest in a string of cases suspended by authorities due to health concerns over the accused.
Sommer, 96, a former SS lieutenant, was deemed unfit to stand trial in 2015, also due to dementia. In 2005 he was found guilty, in his absence, by an Italian court, of playing a role in the murder of men, women and children when, along with nine other SS officers, he carried out a massacre in a village in northern Italy. 560 people were killed in the village in 1944.
Sommer, resident in a German nursing home, appealed the decision. In 2012 a German court said there was insufficient evidence to hold him responsible, before the 2015 decision, again by a German court, that he was unfit for trial.
Lawyer Gabriele Heinecke, who campaigned on behalf of the victims, told Tageszeitung she believed the symptoms of dementia could be faked. "Of course. In matters of pensioners it's something that happens every day," she said.
Before dying in 2011, Asner was prevented from standing trial by Austrian authorities, again due to dementia. The 98-year-old Croatian was allegedly chief of the Ustasha police in the Croatian town of Pozega during the war. They were responsible for the deportation of hundred of Jews and Serbs to concentration camps.
He was tracked down in 2004 by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. Despite reports that he was in fine health, including reported sightings of him at a European Championship football match in 2008, medical experts said he was unfit to stand trial or face extradition from Austria.