German authorities have brought new charges against Josef Schwammberger, the former Nazi concentration camp commander who is already serving a life sentence for killing 650 Jews during World II
The authorities handed down a new indictment last Friday charging Schwammberger, 82, with 144 new counts of murder, saying he had ordered mass executions of Jews and was also directly responsible for murdering prisoners himself.
The Nazi war criminal, who was the commander of several Polish ghettos and labor camps during World War II, was extradited from Argentina to Germany in 1990. He was sentenced to life in prison in May 1992 in the last major Nazi trial in Germany.
Prosecutor Kurt Schrimm said the new indictment came as the result of evidence that had surfaced during Schwammberger’s previous trial, but which could not be introduced at the time because it had not been included in the original extradition’s request from Argentina.
Despite Schwammberger’s advanced age, Schrimm said it was nonetheless the court’s duty to prosecute him for every charge it could prove against him.
But it could take as long as six months before a judge finishes examining the charges and hearing likely objections from the defense to a new trial.
The indictment came down last week as a new, stiffer crime law went into effect in Germany. The law includes new provisions targeting Holocaust deniers, making it easier to prosecute such cases and calling for stiffer penalties of up to five-year prison sentences.
Under the new regulations, longer prison sentences, also of up to five years, will be now be imposed on those carrying out violent hate crimes.
Speaking with Israeli journalists last week in Bonn, German President Roman Herzog expressed satisfaction with the new measures, saying the represented a “very important tool.”
Court proceedings have mean while begun against four young men who were arrested in May on charges of firebombing a synagogue in the northern city of Lubeck.
The firebombing was the first such attack on a synagogue since the Nazi era.
The men, who are between the ages of 20 and 25, were charged with attempted murder and arson for the March 25 attack.
The four, members of a right-wing group, allegedly threw two Molotov cocktails into the entrance of the building which houses the synagogue and then ran away.
Five people who live above the synagogue were asleep at the time. They were alerted by neighbors who heard glass breaking and discovered the fire in its early stages. No one was hurt and the synagogue suffered only slight damage.
According to the charge sheet, the four were motivated by “hatred toward foreigners and Jews.”
Two of the defendants have already admitted to participating in the attack.
Following the arson attack in March, thousands of Germans marched in Lubeck and other cities to demonstrate against hatred of foreigners and Jews.
Ironically, the Nazis spared the Lubeck synagogue during the Nov. 9-10, 1938, Kristallnacht pogrom so as not to damage a nearby art museum.