German police arrest alleged former Auschwitz guard Lipschis

STUTTGART Mon May 6, 2013 3:06pm EDT

A view of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz Birkenau during the marking the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust, in Auschwitz Birkenau January 27, 2012. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

A view of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz Birkenau during the marking the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust, in Auschwitz Birkenau January 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kacper Pempel

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STUTTGART (Reuters) - German police on Monday arrested a suspected former guard at the Auschwitz death camp and Nazi-hunting group Simon Wiesenthal named him as Hans Lipschis.

Prosecutors in the southwestern city of Stuttgart did not name the man but said police had arrested a 93-year-old alleged former Auschwitz guard with the "strong suspicion" he was involved in murder there.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said it welcomed the arrest of Lipschis - fourth on its list of most wanted Nazi criminals.

"The arrest of Lipschis is a welcome first step in what we hope will be a large number of successful legal measures taken by the German judicial authorities against death camp personnel and those who served in the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units)," said Efraim Zuroff, head of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in an emailed statement.

The arrest was made possible by the 2011 conviction in Munich of Sobibor death camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk, the first Nazi war criminal convicted in Germany, without evidence of a specific crime or a specific victim, the Center's email said.

Demjanjuk, a retired U.S. mechanic, died in March last year aged 91. A Munich court convicted him in 2011 for his role in the killing of 28,000 Jews as a Nazi death camp guard.

Lipschis, interviewed in German newspaper Die Welt last month, said he had been a cook in the camp and had left the camp to fight on the Eastern Front, although he could not remember which unit he was in.

Stuttgart prosecutors said the man arrested on Monday had worked at the extermination camp during World War Two, from 1941 until its liberation in 1945. Authorities had searched his flat, taken him into custody and were preparing charges against him.

The Nazis killed some 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, at Auschwitz, near the Polish village of Oswiecim.

News of the arrest came on the same day the surviving member of a German neo-Nazi cell went on trial for a series of racist murders that have scandalized Germany and exposed the security services' inability or reluctance to recognize far-right crime.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Additional reporting by Holger Hansen and Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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