Former Auschwitz guard dies just days before going on trial in Germany

BERLIN (Reuters) - A former Auschwitz guard has died only days before going on trial in Germany, accused of being an accessory to the murder of more than 1,000 people, a court spokesman said on Thursday.

Ernst Tremmel was a member of the Nazi SS guard team at the death camp in occupied Poland from November 1942 to June 1943. His trial was scheduled to begin on April 13.

A court spokesman in the western town of Hanau near Frankfurt said all trial dates had been canceled after police confirmed the death of the 93-year old. The cause of Tremmel’s death was not made known.

Germany is holding what are likely to be its last trials linked to the Holocaust, in which more than six million people, mostly Jews, were killed by the Nazis.

Two other men and one woman in their 90s are accused of being accessories to the murder of hundreds of thousands of people at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

The trial of 95-year-old Hubert Zafke, a former Auschwitz paramedic, and of 94-year-old Reinhold Hanning, a former guard at the death camp, have already started.

No date has yet been set for the trial of the third defendant, 92-year-old Helma M., who worked as a radio operator at Auschwitz. She is accused of being an accessory to the murder of 260,000 people.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Richard Balmforth