Ex-Nazi guard in Philly is dead

Posted: July 25, 2014

TALK ABOUT timing.

A former guard at the Nazi death camp Auschwitz who was living in Northeast Philadelphia died Tuesday night, just hours before a U.S. magistrate judge said he can be extradited to Germany to face murder charges for his alleged Holocaust-era crimes.

Johann Breyer, 89, died at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Jim Burke confirmed to the Daily News yesterday.

Breyer's attorney, Dennis Boyle, told the Associated Press yesterday that Breyer died Tuesday night. The lawyer said Breyer's health had deteriorated but he didn't know the cause of death.

In a strongly worded 31-page order issued yesterday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice said that "Germany has established probable cause of Breyer's complicity in the mass murders at Auschwitz."

"As outlined by Germany, a death-camp guard such as Breyer could not have served at Auschwitz during the peak of the Nazi reign of terror in 1944 without knowing that hundreds of thousands of human beings were being brutally slaughtered in gas chambers and then burned on site," Rice wrote.

"A daily parade of freight trains delivered hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, most of whom simply vanished overnight. Yet, the screams, the smells, and the pall of death permeated the air. The allegations establish that Breyer can no longer deceive himself and others of his complicity in such horror."

The judge learned of Breyer's death yesterday from Breyer's attorney after his order was filed.

Breyer, a retired toolmaker, was arrested June 17 in the driveway of his Woodbridge Road home by the U.S. Marshals Service after he and his wife returned home. His arrest followed a warrant issued last year by a German district court.

Germany had charged Breyer with aiding and abetting in the murders of 216,000 Jewish men, women and children between May and October 1944 at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau death camp. He faced 158 counts of murder - the counts represented the 158 trainloads of Jews brought to the death camp during those months.

About 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered at Auschwitz, about 37 miles west of Krakow, in an area annexed by Nazi Germany in 1939 after invading Poland.

Breyer admitted to the feds that he had been a guard at Auschwitz, but he told the AP in 2012 that he had nothing to do with the mass murder of Jews.

At a June 18 hearing before Rice, Breyer appeared frail. He suffered from heart problems and dementia. Rice ordered him held in federal prison without bail pending an extradition hearing.

On Saturday, Breyer's medical condition worsened, and he required hospitalization.

In light of that, the judge on Monday granted him bail pending the outcome of his extradition matter and said he could be released to his home if he no longer needed to be hospitalized. The judge also canceled the extradition hearing, saying he would decide his part of the case based on written submissions of counsel.


On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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