US man, 89, is held on Nazi death camp charges

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US man, 89, is held on Nazi death camp charges
This image provided by the U.S. Department of Justice shows a copy of a World War II-era record of Johann "Hans" Breyer's employment as an Auschwitz camp guard in Birkenau, in Nazi-occupied Poland. The document casts doubt on the 87-year-old Philadelphia man's story that he served only at Auschwitz I, a smaller camp largely for prisoners used as slave laborers, and never entered Auschwitz II, also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau, where about 90 percent of the 1.1 to 1.5 million Jews and others were killed in the camp. The files are now in the hands of German authorities, and could provide the legal basis for charging Breyer as an accessory to the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Nazi death camp. (AP Photo/U.S. Department of Justice)
A note is shown on the door to the home of Johann "Hans" Breyer, Monday, Sept. 24, 2012, in Philadelphia. Breyer is the target of a new German investigation on allegations he served as an SS guard at the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp, The Associated Press has learned, in a case that comes after years of unsuccessful U.S. Department of Justice attempts to have him stripped of his American citizenship and deported. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
A note is shown on the door to the home of Johann "Hans" Breyer, Monday, Sept. 24, 2012, in Philadelphia. Breyer is the target of a new German investigation on allegations he served as an SS guard at the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp, The Associated Press has learned, in a case that comes after years of unsuccessful U.S. Department of Justice attempts to have him stripped of his American citizenship and deported. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
This undated image obtained by The Associated Press from the National Archives through a Freedom of Information Act request shows a U.S. Army intelligence card on Johann "Hans" Breyer, indicating he served in Auschwitz as of Dec. 29, 1944 _ four months after he said he deserted. The 87-year-old Philadelphia man is the target of a new German investigation on allegations of accessory to murder at Auschwitz, which comes after years of unsuccessful U.S. attempts to have him stripped of his American citizenship and deported. (AP Photo/National Archives)
In this Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 photo, Shirley Breyer, wife of Johann "Hans" Breyer speaks to The Associated Press outside her home in Philadelphia. Johann "Hans" Breyer is the target of a new German investigation on allegations he served as an SS guard at the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp, The Associated Press has learned, in a case that comes after years of unsuccessful U.S. Department of Justice attempts to have him stripped of his American citizenship and deported. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
In this Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 photo, Shirley Breyer, wife of Johann "Hans" Breyer speaks to The Associated Press outside her home in Philadelphia. Johann "Hans" Breyer is the target of a new German investigation on allegations he served as an SS guard at the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp, The Associated Press has learned, in a case that comes after years of unsuccessful U.S. Department of Justice attempts to have him stripped of his American citizenship and deported. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
In this Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 photo, the home of Johann "Hans" Breyer, center, is seen in Philadelphia. Breyer is the target of a new German investigation on allegations he served as an SS guard at the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp, The Associated Press has learned, in a case that comes after years of unsuccessful U.S. Department of Justice attempts to have him stripped of his American citizenship and deported. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
FILE - This undated file image shows the main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz I in Poland, which was liberated by the Russians in January 1945. Writing over the gate reads: "Arbeit macht frei" (Work Sets You Free). Germany has launched a war crimes investigation against an 87-year-old Philadelphia man it accuses of serving as an SS guard at the Auschwitz death camp, The Associated Press has learned, following years of failed U.S. Justice Department efforts to have the man stripped of his American citizenship and deported. Johann "Hans" Breyer, a retired toolmaker, admits he was a guard at Auschwitz during World War II, but told the AP he was stationed outside the facility and had nothing to do with the wholesale slaughter of some 1.5 million Jews and others behind the gates. (AP Photo/File)
In this May 1944 photo provided by Yad Vashem Photo Archives, Jewish women and children deported from Hungary, separated from the men, line up for selection on the selection platform at Auschwitz camp in Birkenau, in Nazi-occupied Poland. Johann “Hans” Breyer, 87, of Philadelphia admits he was a guard at Auschwitz, but says he was never in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the part of the death camp used as a killing machine for Jews. World-War II-era documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate otherwise. Those files are now in the hands of German authorities, and could provide the legal basis for charging Breyer as an accessory to the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Nazi death camp. (AP Photo/Yad Vashem Photo Archives)
Former Nazi concentration camp guard Nikolaus Schiffer, 83, arrives in Bucharest, Tuesday May 21, 2002 deported from the United States for allegedly lying on a petition for naturalization. Schiffer, born in Philadelphia but raised in Romania, was a member of the German Waffen SS, an elite branch of Adolf Hitler's army during World War II. Court records show that he served in four Nazi concentration camps as part of his duties. (AP Photo/Marian Iliescu-Jurnalul National)
Jonas Stelmokas, 82, left, and his lawyer John Manos leave immigration court in Philadelphia Thursday, April 23, 1998. Stelmokas, a retired Pennsylvania architect accused of helping the Nazis massacre thousands of Jews, was ordered deported by an immigration judge who angrily denounced him for covering up his past. (AP Photo/Dan Loh)
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By KATHY MATHESON
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- An 89-year-old Philadelphia man was ordered held without bail Wednesday on a German arrest warrant charging him with aiding and abetting the killing of 216,000 Jewish men, women and children while he was a guard at the Auschwitz death camp.

The man, retired toolmaker Johann "Hans" Breyer, was arrested by U.S. authorities Tuesday night. Breyer spent the night in custody and appeared frail during a detention hearing in federal court, wearing an olive green prison jumpsuit and carrying a cane.

Legal filings unsealed Wednesday in the U.S. indicate the district court in Weiden, Germany, issued a warrant for Breyer's arrest the day before, charging him with 158 counts of complicity in the commission of murder.

Each count represents a trainload of Nazi prisoners from Hungary, Germany and Czechoslovakia who were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau between May 1944 and October 1944, the documents said.

Attorney Dennis Boyle argued his client is too infirm to be detained pending a hearing on his possible extradition to Germany. Breyer has mild dementia and heart issues and has previously suffered strokes, Boyle said.

"Mr. Breyer is not a threat to anyone," said Boyle. "He's not a flight risk."

But Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice ruled the detention center was equipped to care for Breyer, who appeared to comprehend questions about the nature of the hearing.

A law enforcement officer also testified Breyer and his elderly wife grasped what was happening during his arrest Tuesday outside their home in northeast Philadelphia.

"They both understood," deputy marshal Daniel Donnelly said. "It wasn't news to them."

Breyer has been under investigation by prosecutors in the Bavarian town of Weiden, near where he last lived in Germany.

Breyer has admitted he was a guard at Auschwitz in occupied Poland during World War II, but has told The Associated Press he was stationed outside of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp part of the complex and had nothing to do with the wholesale slaughter of about 1.5 million Jews and others behind the gates.

Thomas Walther, a former federal prosecutor with the special office that investigates Nazi war crimes in Germany, now represents family members of some of Breyer's alleged victims as co-plaintiffs in the case. He called for a speedy extradition.

"The German court has to find late justice for the crimes of Breyer and for the victims and their sons and daughters as co-plaintiffs," Walther wrote in an email to the AP. "It is late, but not too late."

Prosecutors in Weiden could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Their investigation comes after years of failed U.S. efforts to have Breyer stripped of his American citizenship and deported.

A court ruling in 2003 allowed him to stay in the United States, mainly on the grounds that he had joined the SS as a minor and could therefore not be held legally responsible for participation in it. His American citizenship stems from the fact his mother was born in the U.S.; she later moved to Europe, where Breyer was born.

During Breyer's arrest Tuesday, he asked the marshals to retrieve papers in his home that document his right to stay in the U.S., Donnelly testified.

Breyer's wife and two grandsons attended the hour-long hearing in Philadelphia on Wednesday. His extradition hearing was scheduled for Aug. 21.

Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, said he hoped there would be no obstacles to Breyer's extradition and trial overseas.

"Germany deserves credit for doing this - for extending and expanding their efforts and, in a sense, making a final attempt to maximize the prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators," he said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem.

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