(JTA) — Germany has opened a war crimes investigation against a retired toolmaker living in Philadelphia.
Johann "Hans" Breyer, 87, is accused of working as an SS guard at Auschwitz. Breyer admits that he was an Auschwitz guard, but says his post was outside the Nazi camp and he had nothing to do with the deaths of Jews inside its gates, according to The Associated Press.
The U.S. Justice Department tried for years to strip Breyer of his citizenship and deport him, in a case reminiscent of John Demjanjuk, a Cleveland-area autoworker who was deported for lying about his service on his citizenship application.
A German office that investigates alleged former Nazis has asked prosecutors to charge Breyer with being an accessory to murder for the killing of some 344,000 Jews at Auschwitz. The office has called on prosecutors to extradite him to Germany to face trial, according to the AP.
Breyer told a U.S. court that he was an Auschwitz perimeter guard, but denied serving in the area of the death camp. He said he deserted in August 1944, which U.S. Army intelligence disputes, the AP reported.
In 2003, a U.S. court ruled that Breyer could remain in the United States because he joined the SS as a minor and could not be held legally responsible for his participation, according to the AP.