German police arrested on Monday one of the 10 most wanted Nazis, 93-year-old Hans Lipschis, who is facing charges of complicity in murder as a former guard at the Auschwitz extermination camp.
State prosecutors in Stuttgart are preparing an indictment against Lipschis, a native of Lithuania who was a guard at Auschwitz from the autumn of 1941 until the Nazis abandoned the camp in January 1945, according to German news reports.
Lipschis reportedly belonged to the Totenkopf-Sturmbann, or Death’s Head Battalion, that guarded the camp, and he later became a cook for SS troops at the camp.
The Zeit online newspaper reported that Lipschis is one of the “ten most wanted Nazi war criminals.”
Lipschis told the German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag last month that he was in Auschwitz “as a cook, the whole time.” He reportedly moved to the United States in 1956 but was expelled in 1982 after immigration authorities determined he had lied about his Nazi past in order to gain entry into the United States.
The arrest has been greeted by the SimonWiesenthalCenter’s top Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff as a positive step.
It follows the announcement last month by Germany’s Central Office for Clarification of Nazi Crimes, based in Ludwigsburg, that it had provided information about 50 former Auschwitz guards to German courts, with the aim of assisting in possible war crimes trials. All the suspects are around 90 years old.
The development was triggered by the 2011 guilty verdict in Munich against former death camp guard John Demjanjuk, as an accessory to murder of nearly 29,000 Jews at Sobibor in Poland. There were no direct witnesses to Demjanjuk having physically committed murder himself, but there was sufficient evidence that he was a guard at the camp.
Kurt Schrimm, who heads the Ludwigsburg agency, told reporters last month that, since the Demjanjuk verdict, “any job in a concentration camp is sufficient evidence towards a conviction as accessory to murder.”