Ex-Nazi guard held without bail in Philly pending extradition hearing

Undated file image shows the main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz I, Poland, which was liberated by the Russians, January 1945. Writing over the gate reads: "Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes free - or work liberates). Johann Breyer, 89 faces possible extradition. (AP Photo\File)
Undated file image shows the main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz I, Poland, which was liberated by the Russians, January 1945. Writing over the gate reads: "Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes free - or work liberates). Johann Breyer, 89 faces possible extradition. (AP Photo\File)
Posted: June 20, 2014

A FORMER NAZI guard at Auschwitz, who has been living in Northeast Philadelphia, was ordered held without bail yesterday pending a hearing on whether he should be extradited to Germany, which wants to try him for alleged Holocaust-era crimes.

A bespectacled Johann Breyer, 89, appeared frail and at times confused at a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Timothy Rice in Philadelphia. Dressed in a forest-green prison jumpsuit, he walked slowly, handcuffed and with a cane.

Breyer was arrested Tuesday night in the driveway of his Woodbridge Road home by the U.S. Marshals Service following an arrest warrant issued by a German district court.

Germany has charged him with aiding and abetting in the murders of 216,000 Jewish men, women and children between May and October 1944 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland.

Breyer, a retired toolmaker, has admitted to the feds that he had been a guard at Auschwitz, but has told the Associated Press that he had nothing to do with the mass murder of Jews.

Yesterday's hearing focused on whether Breyer should be kept at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia while awaiting an extradition hearing, scheduled for Aug. 21.

Breyer's lawyer, Dennis Boyle, said Breyer should not be detained: "He's not a flight risk. He's elderly. He's impaired."

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Foulkes urged that Breyer be kept in custody, and the judge ordered him detained "given the serious nature of the crime."

Greg Breyer, one of Breyer's two grandsons in the courtroom with Breyer's wife, Shirley, testified that his grandfather suffers from "heart-related" issues and dementia. The judge, who reviewed Breyer's medical records from two years ago, said he found Breyer to be "doing well" although suffering from "mild dementia."

Breyer, an ethnic German, was born in Czechoslovakia. He has U.S. citizenship because his mother was born in Manayunk.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Daniel Donnelly, one of two marshals who arrested Breyer, testified that Breyer and his wife returned home Tuesday in their car after buying an air conditioner.

In a lighter side to the hearing, Donnelly noted how helpful the U.S. Marshals Service can be.

"She [Shirley] had also asked me to carry the air conditioner upstairs, which I did," he said.


On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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