A 101-year-old man has been convicted of 3,518 counts of accessory to murder for serving at the Nazis' Sachsenhausen concentration camp during the Second World War.
The Neuruppin Regional Court sentenced him to five years in prison.
The man who lives Brandenburg state and was not identified, had denied working as an SS guard at the camp and aiding and abetting the murder of thousands of prisoners. H pleaded not guilty again on Monday, just ahead of Tuesday's verdict.
“I don't know why I am here,” he said again at the close of the proceedings. Under cross-examination, the defendant previously said he did “absolutely nothing.” He denied knowledge of the vast crimes that took place at Sachsenhausen, saying he had been a farm laborer at the time in question.
Prosecutors maintain that he “knowingly and willingly” took part in crimes as a guard at the camp. They produced documents for a guard with the same name, date of birth and birthplace as the man, as well as other papers.
The court considered it proven that he worked at the camp on the outskirts of Berlin between 1942 and 1945 as an enlisted member of the Nazi Party's paramilitary wing, the German news agency dpa reported.
“The court has come to the conclusion that, contrary to what you claim, you worked in the concentration camp as a guard for about three years,” presiding Judge Udo Lechtermann said, adding that in doing so, the defendant had assisted in the terror and murder machinery of the Nazis.
“You willingly supported this mass extermination with your activity,” Mr Lechtermann said.
For organisational reasons, the trial was held in a gymnasium in Brandenburg/Havel, the 101-year-old's place of residence.
The man was only fit to stand trial to a limited extent and was only able to participate in the trial for about two and a half hours each day. The trial was interrupted several times for health reasons and hospital stays.
Allegations against him include participating in “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 194” and the deployment of “poisonous gas Zyklon B” in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp's gas chambers.
He has been on trial since October at the Neuruppin regional court. Hearings in the case have been held in the nearby eastern city of Brandenburg, near the man's home.Over 200,000 people — mostly Jewish but also members of the Roma community, regime opponents, and gay people — were imprisoned at Sachsenhausen between 1936 and 1945 by the Nazis.
Tens of thousands died from forced labor or as the result of unethical medical experiments, hunger, and disease, in addition to the acts of mass murder that took place there.
Sachsenhausen was liberated in April 1945 by the Soviets, who turned it into a brutal camp of their own.
Tuesday's verdict relies on recent legal precedent in Germany establishing that anyone who helped a Nazi camp function can be prosecuted for accessory to the murders committed there.