By June 21, 2014 2 Comments Read More →

The Nazi Next Door: Philly Man Charged With Nazi War Crimes

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An 89-year-old man, living in Philadelphia, has been ordered by a judge to be held without bail. The arrest warrant from Germany charges him with aiding and abetting the killing of 216,000 Jewish men, women and children during the time that he was a guard at the Auschwitz death camp.

But the retired toolmaker Johann “Hans” Breyer, claims that he “didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I’m an American citizen, just as if I had been born here,” he said. “They can’t deport me.”

“I didn’t kill anybody, I didn’t rape anybody, and I don’t even have a traffic ticket here,” he said. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

He said he knew what was going on inside the death camp, but since he didn’t witness it himself, he believes he should not be held responsible for his role in defending the camp. “We could only see the outside, the gates,” he claimed.

Breyer was arrested by U.S. authorities Tuesday night and appeared in a detention hearing in federal court Wednesday, wearing an olive green prison jumpsuit and carrying a cane.

Legal filings unsealed Wednesday in the U.S. indicate the district court in Weiden, Germany, issued a warrant for Breyer’s arrest the day before, charging him with 158 counts of complicity in the commission of murder.

Each count represents a trainload of Nazi prisoners from Hungary, Germany and Czechoslovakia who were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau between May 1944 and October 1944, the documents said.

Attorney Dennis Boyle argued his client is too infirm to be detained pending a hearing on his possible extradition to Germany. Breyer has mild dementia and heart issues and has previously suffered strokes, Boyle said.

“Mr. Breyer is not a threat to anyone,” said Boyle. “He’s not a flight risk.”

But Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice ruled the detention center was equipped to care for Breyer, who appeared to comprehend questions about the nature of the hearing.

A law enforcement officer also testified Breyer and his elderly wife grasped what was happening during his arrest Tuesday outside their home in northeast Philadelphia.

“They both understood,” deputy marshal Daniel Donnelly said. “It wasn’t news to them.”

Breyer has been under investigation in Germany for years, where they claim he knew very well what was going on in the death camp, and protected it regardless.

Thomas Walther, a former federal prosecutor with the special office that investigates Nazi war crimes in Germany, represents some of the family members of Breyer’s victims as co-plaintiffs in the case. He has called for a quick extradition.

“The German court has to find late justice for the crimes of Breyer and for the victims and their sons and daughters as co-plaintiffs,” Walther wrote in an email to the Associated Press. “It is late, but not too late.”

Breyer’s extradition hearing is scheduled for Aug. 21.

The head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, Efraim Zuroff, said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem, that “Germany deserves credit for doing this — for extending and expanding their efforts and, in a sense, making a final attempt to maximize the prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators.”

2 Comments on "The Nazi Next Door: Philly Man Charged With Nazi War Crimes"

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  1. JetHag says:

    There were no “Polish death camps” (or concentration camps, labor camps, ghettos, etc.)!!! The only Polish aspect of the camps were the victims; Polish Christians were the second largest group, exceeded only by Jews. Even the Association of German Historians has condemned the use of language which falsely shifts the blame for the camps from the perpetrators — Germany — onto Poland, a nation they victimized.

  2. jimprzedzienkowski says:

    The term ‘Polish death camp’ is offensive and incorrect. The German Nazis established the ‘death camps’ on occupied Polish soil. The camps were not Polish as implied by the comment. Please correct the error.

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