Former Nazi medic may be unfit to stand trial

Former Nazi medic Hubert Zafke's case is close to being dropped after doctor finds him unfit to stand trial

Photo by: AP (Archive )
Photo by: AP (Archive )

This undated photo provided by the Archive of the State Museum via AP Auschwitz-Birkenau shows SS Oberscharfuehrer Hubert Zafke.

Former SS medic Hubert Zafke, who is accused of being an accessory to murder in 3,681 cases in the Nazis’ Auschwitz concentration camp, is on the verge of being freed before the opening of his trial, after a doctor found the 95-year-old defendant unfit to be transported to court.

A doctor over the weekend found Hubert Zafke suffering from stress, high blood pressure and having suicidal thoughts, presiding Judge Klaus Kabisch told the Neubrandenburg state court on Monday.

The trial’s opening was postponed until March 14 and both sides agreed upon Zafke to be examined by doctors in the morning of the proceedings in order to see if he will able to come to the court or not.

Zafke was allegedly involved with the unit putting gas into chambers to kill Jews, among other things.

Zafke’'s lawyer insists that his client was not involved in any of the accusations.

The trial is one of several in recent years to arise from a shift in German legal thinking. Prosecutors have successfully argued that since Nazi death camps' entire purpose was to murder Jews and others, helping the camp run in any manner makes one an accessory to those murders.

The charges against Zafke stem from a one-month period in 1944 and involve the deaths of Jews who arrived in 14 transports, including one that brought Anne Frank and her family to the camp. Frank later died at Bergen-Belsen.

Zafke was initially found unfit to stand trial by the court in Neubrandenburg, north of Berlin, but an appeals court overruled that after more medical exams, saying the retired farmer could stand trial so long as sessions were limited to two hours at a time.

Ahead of the trial, prosecutors and attorneys representing Jewish Auschwitz survivors who have joined the trial as co-plaintiffs, as allowed under German law, accused the Neubrandenburg judges of bias, but a motion to have them replaced was rejected.

Cornelius Nestler, who represents two brothers from Colorado who survived Auschwitz as young boys but lost both their parents, said his feelings were reinforced by the court's decision to postpone the trial based on the assessment of a doctor called by Zafke's children on Saturday, while there were two doctors in the court prepared to assess him.

"This court over the last months have shown that it is not interested in this going to trial at all," he said.

Both defence and prosecution agreed that before the next session, Zafke will be assessed the same morning by court-appointed experts.

TRTWorld and agencies