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CRIME

Two ex-Nazi camp guards charged over hundreds of Holocaust deaths

German prosecutors investigating Nazi-era crimes said on Wednesday they had charged two former SS officers in their 90s with complicity in hundreds of murders at the Stutthof concentration camp.

Two ex-Nazi camp guards charged over hundreds of Holocaust deaths
Stutthof memorial and museum in 2015. Photo: DPA.

The state prosecutor's office in the western city of Dortmund said the two unnamed suspects, aged 92 and 93, had participated in the Nazi killing machine in then occupied Poland, according to a statement released by the regional court in nearby Muenster.

“With their actions during their time as guards at the Stutthof concentration camp, the accused are believed to have been accessories in numerous killings,” the court said.

The 92-year-old suspect was stationed at Stutthof between June 1944 and May 1945, while the 93-year-old accused acted as a guard between June 1942 and September 1944.

Some 65,000 people died at the Stutthof former concentration camp, which Nazi Germany set up in 1939 outside what was is now the Polish city of Gdansk, before its liberation in 1945.

Among other crimes, the suspects are accused of involvement in the mass killing of more than 100 Polish prisoners in a gas chamber at the camp in June 1944, and of another 77 wounded Soviet prisoners of war the same summer.

They are also accused of participating in the extermination between August and December 1944 of hundreds of Jews, who had been told they were bound for a labour camp.

And they are suspected of complicity in the horrific conditions at the camp that led several hundred prisoners to contract deadly diseases such as typhus.

The Muenster court said the two accused deny involvement in the deaths at Stutthof.

It must now decide whether the cases will go to trial.

Seventy years after the trials of top Nazis began in Nuremberg, Germany is racing against time to prosecute the last Third Reich criminals to make up for decades of neglect.

However, many cases fail to end up in court because the elderly defendants are often deemed no longer fit enough to be prosecuted.

Only four suspects were taken to court in the last seven years, all using a new standard of evidence: that it was sufficient to work at a death camp to be prosecuted, even without proof of a link to specific killings.

CRIME

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

A 21-year-old gunman opened fire at a secondary school in northern Germany on Thursday, badly injuring a female member of staff before being arrested, police said.

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

The incident happened at the Lloyd Gymnasium school in the centre of Bremerhaven, a city on Germany’s North Sea coast, on Thursday morning. 

“The armed person has been arrested and is in police custody,” police said in a statement. The injured woman was not a pupil, police said.

They said the suspect had entered the school building and fired at a female member of staff, who was “seriously injured”.

The alarm was quickly raised and police said they detained the suspect at a nearby location soon after and had seized his weapon at the scene.

The injured woman is being treated in hospital.

A video circulating on social media and German news sites appeared to capture the moment the gunman was arrested.

A man dressed in black is seen lying face down on a street corner, with a weapon next to him, before being handcuffed by officers.

But there was no immediate confirmation of reports the alleged weapon was a crossbow.

Bremerhaven police tweeted in the morning that a large deployment was under way in the city centre and asked residents to avoid the Mayor-Martin-Donandt square and surrounding streets, in the vicinity of the Lloyd secondary school.

Local news site Nord24 said a school pupil had heard shots being fired and called the police. Pupils barricaded themselves in their classrooms.

Police launched a large-scale operation and cordoned off the area around the school while they carried out inquiries. 

By mid-afternoon, police said special forces had completed their search and the last people had left the building.

Authorities set up a phone hotline for concerned parents. Many parents had gathered in front of the school after being alerted by their children.

Pupils and staff are receiving psychological counselling.

Local media said only around 200 people were on the school grounds, fewer than normal because of exam times.

In a separate incident on Thursday, police in the eastern city of Leipzig said they had detained a 21-year-old student still at secondary school after being tipped off by Snapchat that he had posted pictures of himself with a gun and made unspecified threats.

The US social media platform alerted German authorities, prompting Leipzig police to take action.

 A police spokesman said that the 21-year-old did not pose a real threat, however, and only possessed an airsoft gun, a replica firearm that uses non-lethal, usually plastic, pellets.

‘Strict gun laws’

School shootings are relatively rare in Germany, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in Europe. But a recent spate has rattled the population.

Last week, investigators in Germany’s city of Essen said they foiled a school bomb assault, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a “Nazi terror attack”.

Police in Essen stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

In January, an 18-year-old student opened fire in a lecture hall at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany, killing a young woman and
injuring three others before fleeing the scene and turning the weapon on himself.

In 2009, a former pupil killed nine students, three teachers and three passers-by in a school shooting at Winnenden, in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The gunman then killed himself.

In 2002, a 19-year-old former student, apparently in revenge for having been expelled, shot dead 16 people including 12 teachers and two students at a school in the central German city of Erfurt. He too then killed himself.

The Winnenden and Erfurt massacres were carried out with legal weapons and spurred Germany to tighten gun laws.

The country currently requires anyone under 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a gun licence.

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