A 101-year-old man believed to be a former concentration camp guard was convicted by a German court of being an accessory to 3,518 counts of murder.
The man, identified only as Josef S. due to Germany’s strict privacy laws, was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison by The Neuruppin Regional Court, according to The New York Times. He's believed to be the oldest living person to be tried on charges from the Holocaust era.
Josef S denied the allegations that he worked as an SS guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, north of Berlin, from 1942 to 1945. Despite being convicted, prosecutors were unable to directly link him to the deaths of the prisoners.
A lawyer for the man said he would appeal the decision if the authorities attempt to send him to prison, according to The New York Times. It is also unclear if he'd get a medical commission clearing for his health that'd allow him to face confinement. The man claimed he worked as a farm laborer during the time convicted but it was determined that he aided in the murder machinery of the Nazis.
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"You willingly supported this mass extermination with your activity," presiding Judge Udo Lechtermann said. "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."
The man's conviction comes as a byproduct of two recent developments. One is that Germany's highest criminal court ruled this year that people who worked as guards at concentration camps could still be convicted, even if no specific crimes can be proven. The other is that in 2018, concentration camp records by the Red Army were examined in Moscow, which is how Mr. S's name was discovered.
"We go by the simple principle that murder does not have a statute of limitations," Thomas Will, a leader for the German government office who investigates Nazi-era crimes, told The Times. "It is what’s right and of course it would have been what was right 70 years ago."
Sachsenhausen was established in 1936 just north of Berlin as the first new camp after Adolf Hitler gave the SS full control of the Nazi concentration camp system. It was intended to be a model facility and training camp for the labyrinthine network that the Nazis built across Germany, Austria and occupied territories.
More than 200,000 people were held there between 1936 and 1945. Tens of thousands of inmates died of starvation, disease, forced labor and other causes, as well as through medical experiments and systematic SS extermination operations including shootings, hangings and gassing.
Contributing: The Associated Press.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 101-year-old ex-guard from Nazi camp convicted by German court