German woman, 91, charged in 260,000 Auschwitz deaths

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German prosecutors have charged a 91-year-old woman with playing a role in the deaths of 260,000 Jews at the infamous Auschwitz death camp.

The unidentified woman, who authorities say served as member of the Nazi SS is accused of serving as a radio operator for the camp commandant from April to July 1944, The Times of Israel reports. During that time, huge numbers of Hungarian Jews were murdered in gas chambers.

Prosecutors argue that she can be charged as an accessory because she aided in the operation of the death camp. Heinz Doellel, a spokesman for the prosecutor, said there are no indications the woman is unfit for trial, though a court likely won't decide on whether to proceed with the case until next year.

The case is the latest in a series of attempts by Germany to bring surviving Holocaust perpetrators to justice. Only 50 of the 6,500 former SS members who served at Auschwitz have been convicted in Germany, as the courts long claimed only senior Nazi leadership could be held responsible for Holocaust crimes, The Telegraph reports.

Earlier this year, a 94-year-old man known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz" was incarcerated under similar circumstances. Prosecutors argued Oskar Groenig’s presence when Jews entered the camp created a threatening impression, the BBC says.

Groenig admitted in a 2005 BBC documentary that he had been present on the ramp when selections for the gas chambers took place, and said during the trial he bears a share of the moral guilt for atrocities committed at the camp.

The former SS member was in charge of confiscating prisoners' luggage upon entry and deceiving them by saying their belongings would be returned. He would instead sort and count their money and ship it to Nazis in Berlin.

He was sentenced to four years in prison in connection with the murder of 300,000 people at the death camp. The judgment claims he “supported multiple murders, without providing support to specific individual acts,” the BBC adds.

The decision marks a departure from the court’s decades-old practice of requiring proof former SS members directly committed at least one crime in order to be convicted.

Some 1.1 million people, most of them European Jews, died between 1940 and 1945 at Auschwitz before it was liberated by Soviet forces.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

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