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Weiden prosecutors, who were chosen because the office is nearest where Breyer last lived in Germany, say it could take several months before deciding whether to file charges.
A former prosecutor in Schrimm’s office, Thomas Walther, said he had known of the file on Breyer from his time there. He is now already representing, pro bono, a woman who lost her two siblings in Auschwitz at the time that Breyer is alleged to have been there. The woman will join any prosecution as a co-plaintiff as allowed under German law. Walther said he has established the email address auschwitz.coplaintiff(at)gmail.com for other victims’ families.
"Time is swiftly running out to bring Nazi criminals to justice," Walther said. "I hope that prosecutors in Weiden will act soon on this case."
The Breyer case was handled in the U.S. by the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations. Eli Rosenbaum, who previously headed the office, would not comment on any details of evidence that had been collected against him, nor say whether American agencies were involved in helping with the German probe. Rosenbaum is now with the Justice Department’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, into which the OSI was merged.
Breyer was born in 1925 in what was then Czechoslovakia to an ethnic German father and an American mother, Katharina, who was born in Philadelphia. Slovakia became a separate state in 1939 under the influence of Nazi Germany. In 1942, the Waffen SS embarked on a drive to recruit ethnic Germans there and Breyer joined at age 17. The fact he was a minor at the time was critical in the 2003 decision to allow him to stay in the United States.
Called up to duty in 1943, Breyer said he was shipped off the same day to Buchenwald — in Germany — where he was assigned to the Totenkopf.
By treaty, the U.S. can extradite its citizens to Germany. But Breyer said he would fight any attempts to take him away from the U.S. and his wife and family.
"I’m an American citizen, just as if I had been born here," he said in his Philadelphia home. "They can’t deport me."
Herschaft reported from New York, Moore from Philadelphia
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