An 89-year-old Philadelphia man was arrested and charged with serving as an armed guard at a Nazi death camp, aiding in the slaughter of more than 200,000 Jewish men, women and children during World War II, according to court filings released Wednesday.
German officials are seeking the extradition of Johann "Hans" Breyer after reviews of miltary records and other postwar historical investigations showed he served as an armed guard at Auschwitz and was complicit in the killing of 158 trainloads of Jewish prisoners, according to court records.
Breyer, who is a U.S. citizen because his mother was born in Pennsylvania, is suspected of serving as part of the Death's Head Guard Batallion from 1943 to 1945.
Court records indicate he voluntarily joined the Waffen-SS, the Nazi military force, on Dec. 6, 1942. German authorities have recovered several published reports and wartime transfer orders that confirm Breyer's status as a guard at the death camp, according to court filings.
In 1991, Breyer also admitted to serving as an armed guard at the concentration camp, but never described harming prisoners, according to the court filings. He told investigators he fired his weapon into the air several times, and marched "forced labor prisoners" to construction sites outside the complex, records show.
Patricia Hartman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, told the Los Angeles Times that Breyer will remain in federal custody until an extradition hearing scheduled for Aug. 21.
Breyer's attorney, Dennis Boyle, asked for the 89-year-old to be released until the hearing, claiming his client is too infirm to remain in federal custody, according to the Associated Press.
"Mr. Breyer is not a threat to anyone," said Boyle, according to the report. "He's not a flight risk."
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