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Former Auschwitz guard dies before extradition to Germany

(JTA) — Johann Breyer, the 89-year-old Philadelphia man who served as a guard at Auschwitz and was scheduled to be extradited to Germany, has died.

Breyer died Tuesday, the same day that U.S. Magistrate Timothy Rice had ordered Breyer to be extradited to the town of Weiden in Bavaria, where German officials have been seeking to try him for war crimes in connection with his time as a guard at the concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Rice had granted Breyer bail a day earlier after he was hospitalized over the weekend.

Breyer had a series of strokes in recent years and suffered from heart disease and dementia, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. His lawyers had claimed that he had little memory of his service during the war and argued that his health had deteriorated in federal detention since his arrest in June.

German authorities in June 2013 issued a warrant for Breyer’s arrest accusing him of 158 counts of accessory to murder for each trainload of victims who were brought to Auschwitz during the six months of 1944 that he served as a guard.

Breyer, a retired toolmaker who lived in Philadelphia since 1952, became a U.S. citizen in 1957. When U.S. authorities attempted to revoke his citizenship in 1992 to make extradition easier, he successfully argued that it could not be revoked since his mother had been a U.S. citizen. He was ordered deported in 1997 by the U.S. Immigration Court in Philadelphia based on his admitted service as a guard at a Nazi death camp.

Breyer had claimed that he only served because he was required to do so, and that he merely was a perimeter guard and never harmed anybody.

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