A German court on Tuesday will rule whether 101-year-old Nazi concentration camp guard Josef Schuetz should go to jail for five years for his complicity in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945. Schuetz holds the dubious record of the oldest Nazi on trial for murdering thousands of innocent human beings. At the close of his trial on Monday, he told the court: “I don’t know why I am here.”
He might as well have added, “I don’t know where I am.” During the trial, he made several inconsistent statements about his record during the war years, and complained that his head was “mixed up.”
Standup comic Paton Oswalt has a routine about birthdays that ends with the suggestion that after a certain age you can get away with shoplifting, and when you reach your 100th birthday, you should be allowed to kill people. Life imitates art, or in this case, life is a standup routine. The prosecution is asking for a five-year sentence, but German media reports suggest Schuetz will probably spend the remainder of his life confined to his home – which he was going to do anyway.
More than 200,000 Jews, Roma, anti-Nazi Germans, and homosexuals were detained in Sachsenhausen between 1936 and 1945. Tens of thousands of them died from forced labor, murder, medical experiments, hunger, and disease. Schuetz, who was 21 when he began his service at the camp, was charged with aiding and abetting the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942,” and murdering prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B.”
Just for the heck of it, I did the math––so you won’t have to. It turns out that if he gets five years and lives long enough to serve his sentence, Schuetz will spend exactly half a day behind bars for each victim. As the old bard put it so eloquently (Macbeth Act 5, scene 5):
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
And I say, just give the old bastard a huge slap in the face that’ll knock all his teeth out and call it a day.