A 100-year-old former concentration camp guard became the oldest person yet to be tried for alleged war crimes in Germany as he went before the court charged with complicity in mass murder.
The suspect, Josef Schuetz, stands accused of "knowingly and willingly" assisting in the murder of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.
Allegations against him include aiding and abetting the "execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942" and the murder of prisoners "using the poisonous gas Zyklon B".
More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving SS men to courts, and have in recent years increasingly focused attention on lower-ranking staff.
The case comes a week after a 96-year-old German woman, who was a secretary in a working camp, dramatically fled before the start of her trial, but was caught several hours later.
She, too, has been charged with complicity in murder. Her trial resumes on October 19.
Despite his advanced age, a medical assessment in August found that Schuetz was fit to stand trial, although the Neuruppin court will limit his hearings to a couple of hours a day.
Schuetz arrived with a walking aid for the proceedings, held in a sports hall given the huge interest in the case. The trial is scheduled to last until early January.
"He is not accused of having shot anyone in particular, but of having contributed to these acts through his work as a guard and of having been aware such killings were happening at the camp," a court spokeswoman said.
Little is known about the accused, beyond the fact that he was released from captivity as a prisoner of war in 1947 and went to work as a locksmith in the Brandenburg region of what was then Communist East Germany, the Bild newspaper reported.
The file against him was transferred by the central unit investigating National Socialists to the state of Brandenburg, where he lives, in April 2019, and charges were eventually filed on January 26 this year.
The accused's lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, said his client "has stayed silent" so far on the charges against him.