Prosecutors accused him of being an accessory to the murder of thousands of Jewspolitical prisoners and other minorities persecuted by the Nazis at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp from 1942 to 1945.
“You willingly supported this mass extermination with your activity,” a judge told the man Tuesday, as his verdict was read in a gymnasium in the town of Brandenburg an der Havel, where he lives.
The man, identified internationally as Josef Schuetz and as Josef S. in Germany due to privacy laws, has repeatedly denied the allegations and claimed he was an agricultural laborer in a different area of the country at the time, according to Deutsche Welle. He was not identified at his sentencing hearing.
“I don’t know why I am here,” Schuetz said on the last day of his trial Monday, according to to Agence-France Presse. His lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post. Waterkamp previously told AFP he would appeal a guilty verdict.
According to Deutsche Welle, Schuetz is the oldest person ever tried in Germany for complicity with Nazi crimes during World War II.
As The Post has previously reportedSchuetz’s trial and recent conviction “reflects how law enforcement officials are racing against time to bring some closure for elderly Holocaust survivors and their families, as more and more Nazi personnel and their victims die in old age.”
Throughout Schuetz’s trial, which began in October and has been paused several times due to his apparent ill health, prosecutors relied on old identification documents to build a case that he was a Nazi guard at Sachsenhausen between 1942 and 1945, during which time they alleged he aided and abetted the murder of different groups of prisoners by firing squad and poison gas, according to to AFP.
Tens of thousands of people died at Sachsenhausena forced labor and death camp where Jews, Soviet prisoners of war and other persecuted minorities were killed by shooting and gas chamber. The camp was liberated by Soviet forces in April 1945.
Schuetz throughout his trial said he did not know what was taking place in the concentration camp and gave conflicting accounts of his whereabouts during World War II, AFP reported.
“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 told Schuetz, according to the German news agency dpa.
A German court set a precedent in 2011 with the conviction of John Demjanjuka 91-year-old accused of being an accessory to 28,000 murders while working as a guard at the Sobibor concentration camp in Poland.
The court’s decision paved the way for convictions that largely rested on whether the defendant had served at a Nazi death camp where crimes had taken place. Prosecutors previously had to prove the accused had committed specific crimes against someone – a higher threshold, given the alleged events took place decades ago. Demjanjuk, who died in 2012denied he had been a guard.
While elderly people convicted of being former Nazis are not typically expected to serve time in prison, some argue that prosecuting and convicting them can restore a measure of justice to descendants of their victims, and ensure their crimes do not go unacknowledged.
Andrew Jeong contributed to this report.