BERLIN – A 94-year-old man who served as a security guard in Hitler's SS clutched his cane when a bailiff sent him to a courtroom on Tuesday charging 60,000 people for killing hundreds of men in the Stutthof concentration camp.
Johann Rehbogen was still a teenager when he worked as a security guard in the camp, where he was stationed between June 1942 and September 1944. He was under the age of 21 By the time the alleged crimes were committed, the case is being heard by a juvenile court, where the maximum sentence he could be violated is 10 years in prison.
In the indictment, more than 1
Mor More than 140 predominantly Jewish women and children were killed by injecting gas or phenol "directly into the heart of the individual prisoner," while "an unknown number of detainees were killed by various methods, including freezing in the winter of 1943-44, died "the indictment.
"The defendant knew of the various killing methods, he worked to make them all possible," said Andreas Brendel, prosecutor for Nazi crimes in North Rhine-Westphalia, who read the charges in the court in Münster.
Seventeen survivors and their families, many of whom live in the United States, Israel and Canada, have joined the process as co-prosecutors.
Judy Meisel was 12 years old when she arrived in Stutthof. At the age of 89 she remembers standing in a row naked next to her mother in the gas chamber. At the last minute, a guard indicated she could return to the barracks. "Run, Judy, run!", Her mother yelled to her in Yiddish. Ms. Meisel never saw her mother again.
"Stutthof was a mass murder by the SS, made possible by the help of the guards," she said in a written statement she read through her lawyer before the court.  "He must take responsibility for what he has done in Stutthof, taking responsibility for participating in these unimaginable crimes against humanity," she said. "For the murder of my beloved mother, whom I have missed for the rest of my life."
In Germany, no charges are filed, but Mr. Rehbogen said through his lawyers that he will someday turn to the court for the trial, which is due to last in January. Due to his age, the trials are limited to a maximum of two consecutive days per week for a maximum of two hours per day.
For decades, the German judicial system insisted on evidence that there was a direct involvement in a National Socialist crime. He had to sue a perpetrator who allowed innumerable lower Nazis to live their lives in peace.
That changed when a Munich court found John Demjanjuk guilty of murder for serving as a security guard in the Sobibor extermination camp. The court found that he could not have guessed the killing around him.
Mr. Demjanjuk, who denied the allegation, died before his decision against the verdict could be heard. However, in 2015, the country's top criminal court upheld the conviction of Oskar Gröning, a former Auschwitz security guard, convicted on the same grounds of the association for consolidating legal precedent.
Mr. Brendel said investigators in his office were investigating hundreds of testimonies and documents from other Nazi trials. They also flew to interview survivors like Ms. Meisel, a resident of Minneapolis.
"Given the structure of the camp, we believe the guards knew what was going on," said Brendel. "The killings, especially the gassing and burning of corpses, could not be hushed up."
Stutthof was founded in 1941 as a labor camp and later became a concentration camp. In 1944, a gas chamber was set up.
Benjamin Cohen (34), Meisel's grandson, participated in a documentary about his life on Tuesday.
"Having her testimony delivered today and hearing her story from everyone in the courtroom was so monumental to her and to our family," said Mr. Cohen. "It shows how important it is to acknowledge these crimes and never stop telling these stories."