Now Germany prosecutes Hitler’s Stalag POW camp guards: 98-year-old is charged with war crimes over murders of Soviets detained during WWII
- It is said the accused was complicit in murder of a staggering 809 Soviet POWs
- He served as a guard at the ‘Stalag 365’ POW camp between Nov 1942-Mar 1943
- If the case proceeds, it could set a precedent for other guards to be prosecuted
- Prosecutors have until now focused on trying concentration camp guards
- But many POWs were subjected to similarly horrendous conditions in Stalag camps
German prosecutors have charged a 98-year-old man with war crimes after discovering he was a former soldier who manned the watchtowers at one of the Nazis’ notorious prisoner of war camps.
The accused, who resides in Berlin and was not named due to German privacy laws, was a member of the Wehrmacht and was deployed at the ‘Stalag-365’ POW camp in the city of Volodymyr-Volynsky, in modern day western Ukraine.
It is said he was complicit in the murder of a staggering 809 Soviet POWs who were held in horrific conditions at the camp between November 1942 and March 1943.
The POWs were among the 3 million Soviets who died by execution, forced labour, starvation, thirst and exposure while in captivity during WWII.
The Berlin court is awaiting further information on the man’s supposed involvement in the deaths before it proceeds with trial.
But if the case is called, it could set a precedent for many more prosecutions for Nazi war crimes, which have historically been limited only to SS guards linked to concentration camps and the Holocaust rather than regular German army soldiers.
Russian prisoners of war stand on the grounds of Stalag 326 which housed 10,000 prisoners during World War II
A Stalag camp in Stukenbrock, Germany, held 8,610 Soviet prisoners when it was liberated by US tank units in April 1945
Though the accused may not have physically carried out executions of Soviet prisoners himself, prosecutors argue his ‘cruelty’ in standing by and maintaining order as he watched them die makes him an accessory to murder.
A spokeswoman for the Berlin criminal courts told The Times: ‘He is accused of being aware of the deprivation and the starvation of prisoners of war and having thereby made himself culpable.’
‘It’s different from the other cases because they always dealt with concentration camps.’
The Nazi war machine set up hundreds of ‘Stalag’ camps throughout occupied territory in WWII which were reserved for prisoners of war.
Though prosecutions in recent years have focused on bringing to justice those responsible for operating the horrific Nazi death camps which exterminated millions of Jews, many POWs who were taken captive and shipped off to Stalag camps met a similar fate.
A spokesperson for a German state justice body which investigates Nazi war crimes said the conditions in some Stalag camps closely resembled the horror experienced by concentration camp inmates.
He also pointed out that Soviet prisoners were seen as ‘subhuman’ in Nazi Germany and were therefore subjected to brutal treatment at the hands of their guards.
POWs at a Stalag in the town of Kitzingen in Germany are seen rushing to welcome the US troops who are liberating them
9th April 1945: Stalag 326 prisoner of war camp in Germany, where 30,000 Russian prisoners of war died. Nine thousand were still alive when it was liberated by the US 9th army
‘The prisoner of war camps went in absolutely the same direction as the concentration camps,’ the spokesperson told The Times.
‘The fact is that in prisoner of war camps, especially those with Soviet prisoners of war, conditions were catastrophic… one can also speak of systematic killings due to the hostile conditions there.’
Should the case in question go to trial, it is unlikely many like it will follow.
Any living Wehrmacht soldiers who were present at Stalag POW camps would be very advanced in age, and German courts are still dealing with several ongoing cases relating to alleged concentration camp guards.
But an eventual prosecution of the 98-year-old accused would shed light on the plight of the millions of Soviet POWs largely forgotten by history despite meeting their dark end in Stalag camps.
And Nazi war crimes investigators confirmed they are now looking into several individuals suspected of working at the POW camps.