Former Nazi death camp guard could be tried as an adolescent

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One of the world’s most-wanted Nazis could be tried as an adolescent – and he’s almost 90 years old. The BBC is reporting that former death camp guard Samuel Kunz, whose age is given variously in news reports as 88 and 89, was charged this week in Bonn, Germany, with helping from 1942 to 1943 in the killing of 430,000 Jewish prisoners at the Nazi German Belzec camp in occupied Poland, as well as murdering 10 Jews on other occasions during the same period.

According to AP, court documents detail Mr. Kunz’s involvement in all aspects of Belzec’s murderous operations: pulling prisoners from trains, shutting them in gas chambers, searching their corpses for missed valuables and disposing of their remains. Mr. Kunz is also charged with the “personal excesses” of fatally shooting two escaped prisoners in one instance in 1943 and with killing eight injured prisoners in another instance that same year, according to Israel National News. Mr. Kunz is said to have become a guard at Belzec in January 1942, at the age of 20, and to have committed the 10 shooting murders during the spring or summer of 1943.

We were unable to find a specific date of birth for Mr. Kunz, but it doesn’t take a mathematician to note the former Nazi guard was at least 21 at the time of his alleged “personal excesses” if he was 20 when he began working at the extermination camp. Under German law, people between the ages of 18 and 21 may be tried as minors, with the maximum sentence for those tried as the latter, life imprisonment.

But upon turning 21 Kunz no longer fell between the two bookend ages of adolescence as prescribed by German law – so why does he now, after more than six decades during he which he paid nothing for his charged heinous war crimes, stand the chance of being tried as an adolescent?

The repugnance and result of a crime in question ought, as it does in most American states, determine the possible penalties to be imposed on a suspected criminal. Whether he was 21 or 41 at the time, if there is sufficient evidence that Mr. Kunz was in fact responsible for aiding in the murder of hundreds of thousands of people, and was directly responsible for ending the lives of 10 others, he should pay the ultimate price – with what’s left of his own life.

 

*Update 8/2/10: Clarification on Nazi German Belzec camp 

 

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Anath Hartmann

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