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German court decides against visiting camp in trial of ex-Nazi guard


Hamburg – The trial of a 93-year-old former guard at the Stutthof concentration camp will not feature a visit to the crime scene in what today is Poland, a German court decided on Tuesday.

The request had been made by representatives for the co-plaintiffs who argued that the Hamburg regional court needed to get a feel for what Nazi guards could see of the gas chamber, crematorium, gallows and the inhuman conditions at the time.

But the court said the camp was now a memorial with elements that had partly been reconstructed and large portions covered by forest.

Getting only a rough impression would not be helpful, it found.

It also noted that the defendant has not denied the existence of the gas chamber and crematorium, and has testified that he witnessed an execution.

The accused, a German national, is charged with being an accessory to murder in 5,230 cases during his stint as a camp guard between August 1944 and April 1945. He was 17 or 18 years old at the time.

Prosecutors say he `supported the insidious and cruel killing of mainly Jewish prisoners.’

The former guard’s defence lawyer had asked for the trial to be deferred due to the coronavirus pandemic so as not to jeopardise his client’s life.

The virus can lead to the Covid-19 respiratory disease which has proven particularly deadly for elderly people.

The request has been turned down by the court, according to a court spokesman.

On Tuesday, the defendant wore a face mask and rubber gloves, but complained that he could not breathe well through the mask and was allowed by the presiding judge to remove it, the spokesman said.

The trial is scheduled to continue on April 23.


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