U.S. judge says Germany seeks Philadelphia man accused of being Nazi guard

PHILADELPHIA Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:06pm EDT

Related Topics

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Germany is seeking extradition of an 89-year-old Pennsylvania man in connection with the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jewish men, women and children at Nazi concentration camps, a U.S. judge said on Wednesday.

Johann Breyer was arrested by U.S. authorities on Tuesday at his home in Philadelphia on allegations that he served as a Nazi SS guard at the Auschwitz and Buchenwald camps.

Germany has issued a warrant for his arrest, U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice said at Breyer's appearance in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

German authorities are charging him with aiding and abetting the deaths of 216,000 Jews, a figure arrived at by estimating the survival rate of prisoners packed into 158 trains that arrived at Auschwitz between May and October 1944, according to documents.

The retired tool-and-die maker, born in Czechoslovakia, joined the Waffen SS at age 17. He has argued that he was coerced into joining and was not involving in deaths at the camps.

The judge ordered him held without bail. Breyer's attorney tried unsuccessfully to argue he is not healthy enough to stay in federal detention while his case is being decided.

Breyer, wearing a baggy green jumpsuit and leaning on a cane, was asked if he understood what was happening. "Not really," he replied to the judge.

Breyer immigrated to the United States in 1952. He was the subject of deportation proceedings in the 1990s when his attorneys argued that he was a natural U.S. citizen because his mother was born in Philadelphia.

Newly discovered evidence has strengthened the case against Breyer, the New York Times reported. War-era records show he was at Auschwitz earlier than he has acknowledged and that he also served as a guard in a notorious subcamp, known as Birkenau, used exclusively to kill prisoners, the newspaper said.

Breyer served as an armed guard at Buchenwald before transferring in 1944 to Auschwitz where, according to court documents, he has said he served as a perimeter guard. In the courtroom wrangling over Breyer's health, his grandson Greg Breyer testified that he had suffered strokes and had a heart condition. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Foulkes countered that Breyer had renewed his driver's license two years ago and that he did not rely on home health aides.

(The story is refiled to add Breyer's first name in paragraph two)

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Will Dunham)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (6)
T-Sip wrote:
The man deserves the death penalty. He committed atrocious crimes against humanity, then immigrated to the U.S. and started living a good model life and that should not disqualify him from being held accountable for those crimes regardless of his age. Age didn’t matter to him when he did his dastardly deeds so his age shouldn’t matter here either.

Jun 18, 2014 2:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Abenaki wrote:
Forget it, Let him off, He is now 89 and does not have much time left. Let that what happened rest in peace. Notice he was only a guard. Let’s never forget what happened, but also let the “hundreds of thousands of Jewish men, women and children at the Auschwitz and Buchenwald Nazi concentration camps” that died rest in peace. Forget it Germany your too late….

Jun 18, 2014 2:29pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
OBryan wrote:
who cares if he is not healthy enough. ship his rear over there and let him be treated just as he treated the Jews.

Jun 18, 2014 2:37pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.