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CRIME

German parents jailed for starving daughter to death

A German mother and father were sentenced on Wednesday for murdering their 5-year-old daughter Lea-Sophie by starvation.

German parents jailed for starving daughter to death
Photo: DPA

The Schwerin district court handed both the 24-year-old mother and the 26-year-old father prison time of 11 years and 9 months for child abuse and murder.

“Both of the accused stood by and did nothing while their own flesh and blood wasted away in misery,” head judge Robert Piepel said when the verdict was announced. The parents denied their daughter help “that would have been so easy to get,” he said.

On November 20, 2007, Lea-Sophie died of dehydration and starvation, having refused food for weeks after her younger brother was born. She weighed just 7.4 kilogrammes (16.3 pounds) – less than half her normal weight – when she died. She was rushed to the hospital with severe deficiency symptoms and bed sores, but died shortly thereafter. An autopsy showed that she died of starvation, dehydration and painful ulcers.

“It should never have gone that far,” the mother told the court in the German state of Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania.

During the trial, psychiatric experts said they had discovered clues of personality disorders in both parents, who said didn’t seek medical care for their daughter in fear that child services would take her away. The mother also admitted that she had felt ashamed that she struggled to care for her family and household. During the trial it was revealed that the father often used video games to escape his troubles. The family became increasingly isolated as Lea-Sophie’s health deteriorated, the court found.

Despite the fact that the family had been reported to child services on numerous occasions, the city faces no charges in Lea-Sophie’s death, the court said.

CRIME

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

A German court on Tuesday handed a five-year jail sentence to a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person so far to go on trial for complicity in war crimes during the Holocaust.

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

Josef S. was found guilty of being an accessory to murder while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945, presiding judge Udo Lechtermann said.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, had pleaded innocent, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said at the close of his trial on Monday.

But prosecutors said he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the camp and called for him to be punished with five years behind bars.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor

More than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and gay people, were detained at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1936 and 1945.

Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labour, murder, medical experiments, hunger or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

Prosecutors said the man had aided and abetted the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B”.

He was 21 years old at the time.

Contradictory statements

During the trial, S. made several inconsistent statements about his past, complaining that his head was getting “mixed up”.

At one point, the centenarian said he had worked as an agricultural labourer in Germany for most of World War II, a claim contradicted by several historical documents bearing his name, date and place of birth.

After the war, the man was transferred to a prison camp in Russia before returning to Germany, where he worked as a farmer and a locksmith.

He remained at liberty during the trial, which began in 2021 but has been delayed several times because of his health.

Despite his conviction, he is highly unlikely to be put behind bars, given his age.

His lawyer Stefan Waterkamp told AFP ahead of the verdict that if found guilty, he would appeal.

More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving Nazi perpetrators to justice.

The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk, on the basis that he served as part of Hitler’s killing machine, set a legal precedent and paved the way for several of these twilight justice cases.

Since then, courts have handed down several guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly linked to the individual accused.

By David COURBET

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