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updated: 5/20/2014 11:11 AM

German probe finds 20 former death camp guards

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  • The former Nazi death camp Majdanek outside the city of Lublin in eastern Poland.

      The former Nazi death camp Majdanek outside the city of Lublin in eastern Poland.
    Associated Press File photo, 2005

 
Associated Press

BERLIN -- Around 20 former guards at the Majdanek death camp could face charges in Germany, following a widespread probe of the Nazi SS men and women who served there during World War II, war crimes investigators said Tuesday.

Federal prosecutor Kurt Schrimm, who heads Germany's special Nazi war crimes office, said he expects to turn the cases over to state investigators within two weeks for them to pursue accessory to murder charges. Schrimm's office has no power to file charges itself.

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Lead investigator Thomas Will told The Associated Press that about 30 suspects were identified and located, but around ten had already died. The remaining 20 men and women all live in Germany, he said, but refused to elaborate further.

Some 220 others are still being investigated for possible charges but have not been located.

The Majdanek probe is the second major review of death camp guards undertaken after Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk in 2011 became the first person to be convicted in Germany solely for serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of involvement in a specific killing.

Though Demjanjuk always denied serving at the death camp and died before his appeal could be heard, Schrimm's office in September recommended that state prosecutors pursue charges against 30 former Auschwitz guards based on his case.

The office then started investigating about 1,000 former guards at Majdanek -- another death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, where some 360,000 Jews and others were killed.

While Majdanek was also used as a labor camp -- meaning guards theoretically could have worked there at certain times and not been involved in the Nazi genocide -- prosecutors focused on guards allegedly present during the killings.

The Auschwitz investigation also continues and Schrimm said he expects more suspects will be announced "in the coming months."

Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, urged state prosecutors to prioritize the new cases, given the advanced age of the suspects.

"We are very hopeful that the work will be expedited so as many people as possible can be brought to justice," he said.

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