- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 28, 2010

BERLIN (AP) — The world’s third most wanted Nazi suspect, who allegedly participated in the murder of more than 430,000 Jews at the Belzec death camp, was involved in the entire killing process — from taking victims from trains to pushing them into gas chambers to throwing their corpses into mass graves, according to court documents.

A state court in the western city of Bonn released new details Thursday of last week’s indictment against Samuel Kunz, an 88-year-old former ministry employee who has lived undisturbed in the village of Wachtberg outside Bonn for many years.

“The accused was deployed in all areas of the camp,” court spokesman Matthias Nordmeyer told the Associated Press.

The court’s statement describes in gruesome detail some of the crimes the suspected former death camp guard allegedly committed in occupied Poland from January 1942 to July 1943.

The court also announced Thursday that Mr. Kunz has been charged in a German youth court because he was a minor at the time — meaning he could be brought to trial as an adolescent and face a more lenient sentence.

Mr. Kunz was 20 years old when he allegedly started working as a guard at Belzec in January 1942. According to German law, people between 18 and 21 can be brought to trial either as minors or adults.

“It will be up to the judge to decide whether he will be sentenced as an adolescent or an adult,” Mr. Nordmeyer said.

In its statement, the court described the deadly routine at Belzec, claiming that Mr. Kunz supposedly participated as a camp guard in all areas of the Nazis’ organized mass murder of Poland’s Jewry.

After the victims arrived by train at the death camp, they were told that before they could start working they had to be deloused and take a shower, the statement said, describing the terrifying killing process that by now is well known.

“Threatening them with pistols, whips and wooden clubs, the victims were told to hurry up… . They had to undress … the women had their hair cut off, and then first the men, then women and children were pushed into the gas chambers,” the statement said.

After the victims were killed, “the corpses were searched for gold and valuables and then thrown into prepared graves.”

In addition to being charged with participating in the execution of the Holocaust, Mr. Kunz — who is No. 3 on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of most-wanted Nazi suspects — also is accused of “personal excesses” in the alleged shooting of 10 Jews.

“In July 1943, the defendant is accused of having shot two persons who had escaped from a train going to the death camp and had been captured by guards,” the statement said.

Between May and June 1943, he reportedly killed eight others who had been wounded but not killed by another guard at Belzec.

“The defendant then took the weapon from the other guard to shoot the wounded victims to death,” according to the statement.

Mr. Kunz long was ignored by the German justice system, where former officials were not that interested in going after relatively low-ranking camp guards. But in the past 10 years, a younger generation of German prosecutors has emerged who want want to bring all surviving Nazi suspects to justice.

While Mr. Kunz ranked fairly low in the Nazi hierarchy, he is among the top most wanted because of the large number of Jews he is accused of having been involved in killing. The prosecutor’s office in Dortmund puts that figure at 430,000.

The highest-profile guard on trial now is John Demjanjuk, the 90-year-old retired autoworker being tried in Munich for being an accessory to the murder of 28,060 Jews as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland. He denies he was ever a camp guard.

Mr. Kunz’s case came to light because of Mr. Demjanjuk. Authorities recently stumbled over Mr. Kunz’s case when they studied old documents from German postwar trials about the SS training camp Trawniki.

Prosecutors allege that both Mr. Kunz and the Ukrainian-born Mr. Demjanjuk, who was deported to Germany from the United States last year, trained as guards at the Trawniki SS camp.