Trial of Nazi death camp guard, 94, breaks down as he hospitalized

Trial of Nazi concentration camp guard, 94, breaks down after he is taken to hospital with serious heart and kidney problems

  • Johann Rehbogen is charged with hundreds of counts of accessory to murder
  • He served as an SS guard at the Stutthof concentration camp east of Danzig
  • But the elderly man’s trial has been abandoned while he is treated in hospital
  • Rehbogen wept last month as he heard written testimony from victims’ relatives 

The trial of a 94-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard collapsed on Thursday due to serious heart and kidney problems.

Johann Rehbogen, a former SS guard at the Stutthof concentration camp, was hospitalised for issues with his vital organs, causing several recent hearings at the Muenster state court to be cancelled.

He is accused of serving as a guard and being complicit in the murders of hundreds of prisoners at the death camp, east of Danzig, today the Polish city of Gdansk, from June 1942 to about early September 1944. 

Due to German legal regulations preventing overly long gaps in trials, the court had no choice but to end the proceedings, said court spokesman Steffen Vahlhaus. 

Johann Rehbogen, 94, (pictured on November 6) is accused of complicity in the murders of several hundred Stutthof camp prisoners between 1942 and 1944 when he was aged between 18 and 20

Johann Rehbogen has had his trial put off until at least January while he receives treatment for heart and kidney problems

Stutthof concentration camp east of Danzig (pictured); 60,000 people were murdered at the death camp by the Nazis

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Presiding Judge Rainer Brackhane ruled that a medical expert will re-examine Rehbogen in January to determine whether his condition has improved to the point where the trial can be restarted from the beginning, Vahlhaus said.  

Rehbogen, however, appeared outwardly healthy when his trial opened on November 6, listening attentively to the proceedings and answering basic questions from the judges. 

More than 60,000 people were killed in the camp and he faces hundreds of counts of accessory to murder on allegations that, as a guard, he aided in the process.

Last month his lawyer read a statement on his behalf: ‘When I saw the detainees I knew that the SS was wrong, but I didn’t have a choice.’

He denied knowledge of the sickening crimes which took place during his time there.

When Rehbogen was aged between 18 and 20 prosecutors allege he was an accessory to more than 100 Polish prisoners gassed in June 1944 and ‘probably several hundred’ Jews killed from August to December 1944. 

‘I knew nothing of the systematic killings, I knew nothing of the gas chambers as well as the crematoria,’ his statement said.

The old man wept last month as he heard testimony read from the relatives of victims from Israel and the United States. 

Johann Rehbogen, a 94-year-old former SS enlisted man, is wheeled through court in Muenster by a prison guard last month

Rehbogen’s lawyer told the panel of judges in one session that while he served at Stutthof, he was ‘not a Nazi.’

He suggested that he knew prisoners were being mistreated, but denied any knowledge of the camp’s gas chamber or any participation in killing them.

‘As a Christian it was hard for me to be part of all of it,’ Rehbogen told the court. ‘But I was too scared to protest.’

Rehbogen, a German from the western district of Borken, North Rhine-Westphalia state, is a retired landscape architect and divorced father-of-three, according to German media.

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