Justice delayed: world’s oldest war criminal dies in Germany before serving sentence

A grilled gate at Sachsenhausen concentration camp where the war criminal worked.

Schütz was convicted as a war criminal at Sachsenhausen camp Photo credit: Roger Veringmeier / Wikimedia Commons

THE world’s oldest convicted war criminal, Josef Schütz, died at the age of 102 on Wednesday, April 26, marking the end of a long journey to bring him to justice.

Schütz was found guilty last June of aiding and abetting in the murder of thousands of prisoners at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin between 1942 and 1945.

Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Schütz always denied being an SS guard at the camp. He claimed instead that he had worked as a farm laborer during the war.

However, documents showed his name and birth details as an SS guard at the camp, and witness accounts confirmed his role in the atrocities committed at Sachsenhausen.

During his trial, Schütz expressed no remorse for his actions, saying, “I don’t know why I’m sitting here in the sin bin. I really had nothing to do with it.”

Despite his claims, he was found guilty of aiding and abetting the murders of a shocking 3,518 people, as well as being complicit in the shooting of Soviet prisoners of war and the murder of many others.

Germany has been working to bring former Nazi war criminals to court in recent years, prompted by a landmark case in 2011. Ex-SS guard John Demjanjuk was found guilty, leading to a renewed search for surviving war criminals.

In 2015, the so-called “bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” Oskar Gröning, was given a four-year jail term, but like Schütz, he never spent a day in jail due to a series of appeals, and he died in 2018.

Schütz’s death marks the end of a difficult journey to bring him to justice. While he never served a day in jail due to a series of appeals, his conviction stands as a reminder of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust.

More than 200,000 people were imprisoned at Sachsenhausen camp during World War II, including political prisoners as well as Jews, Roma, and Sinti (Gypsies).

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