Former Auschwitz guard, 93, faces trial in Germany: court

A 93-year-old former Auschwitz death camp guard will go on trial in February, charged with at least 170,000 counts of accessory to murder, a German court said Monday.

The defendant, who has not been named by the court, is accused of complicity in the killings at the camp in occupied Poland between January 1943 and June 1944.

"As a member of the camp guards, he stood watch over the arriving trains carrying prisoners," prosecutors had said in an earlier statement outlining the charges against him.

Among the trains arriving on his watch were 92 from Hungary between May and June 1944.

The defendant is accused of having guarded the selection process -- when prisoners deemed unfit for labour, including the elderly, sick, children and pregnant women were separated out and sent to gas chambers within five hours of their arrival.

He is also deemed to have been aware that the regular mass shooting of inmates at the camp, as well as the systematic starvation of prisoners were designed to kill them.

"The accused must know of these killing methods," prosecutors said.

"Through his capacity as a guard, he facilitated... the several thousand killings of inmates by the main perpetrator," they added.

The defendant has admitted to working in Auschwitz but denies a role in the killings.

Some 1.1 million people, most of them European Jews, perished between 1940 and 1945 in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp before it was liberated by Soviet forces.

The court said it had allowed the trial to open in mid-February after an expert found that the accused was able to answer to the court for a maximum of two hours a day.

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.

Around a dozen investigations are currently under way against former SS officers, just months after the so-called "Bookkeeper of Auschwitz" Oskar Groening was sentenced to four years in jail as an accessory to murder in 300,000 cases in which Hungarian Jews were sent to the gas chambers between May and July 1944.

Last week, a German appeals court ruled that a 95-year-old former medic at Auschwitz is fit to stand trial for at least 3,681 counts of accessory to murder.