On Tuesday, an elderly man who served with the Nazis in WWII was found guilty of 3,500 counts of accessory to murder for working as an SS guard at Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
According to The Associated Press, the 101-year-old man identified as Josef S. was sentenced to five years in prison by the Neuruppin Regional Court. He had denied that he worked as an SS guard and rejected the accusation that he helped facilitate the murder of thousands of people.
Mr. S. claimed that he worked on a farm near Pasewalk, Germany during WWII, but the court said it was a fact that he worked at the camp between 1942 and 1945.
“The court has come to the conclusion that, contrary to what you claim, you worked in the concentration camp as a guard for about three years,” presiding Judge Udo Lechtermann said, according to the German news agency dpa.
“You willingly supported this mass extermination with your activity,” he continued. “You watched deported people being cruelly tortured and murdered there every day for three years.”
The Central Council of Jews in Germany praised the court’s decision.
“Even if the defendant will probably not serve the full prison sentence due to his advanced age, the verdict is to be welcomed,” said the council’s leader, Josef Schuster.
“The thousands of people who worked in the concentration camps kept the murder machinery running. They were part of the system, so they should take responsibility for it,” Schuster continued. “It is bitter that the defendant has denied his activities at that time until the end and has shown no remorse.”
The lead Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s officer in Jerusalem, Efraim Zuroff, told the AP that the conviction “sends a message that if you commit such crimes, even decades later, you might be brought to justice.”
“And it’s a very important thing because it gives closure to the relatives of the victims,” Zuroff added. “The fact that these people all of a sudden feel that their loss is being addressed and the suffering of their family who they lost in the camps is being addressed … is a very important thing.”
Located north of Berlin, Sachsenhausen was opened in 1936 as a model facility and camp operated by the SS. Over 200,000 people were imprisoned at there between its establishment and the end of the war in 1945.
Tens of thousands of inmates died while being subjected to medical experiments and extermination operations involving shootings, hangings, and gassing, while others died from starvation, disease, and forced labor.
It is unclear exactly how many people were killed in the camp, but estimates range from 50,000 to 100,000.
The defendant plans to appeal the verdict.