Bail set as elderly former Nazi guard falls ill in Pennsylvania

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 21, 2014 5:51 PM

(Reuters) - A former Nazi concentration camp guard awaiting extradition to Germany was granted bail on Monday, set at $100,000, after his serious medical condition worsened while in jail, according to court documents.

The decision comes days before a federal judge was to decide whether Johann Breyer, 89, would be extradited to Germany.

Lawyers for Breyer, who served during World War Two as an armed guard at Buchenwald and Auschwitz and emigrated to Philadelphia in 1952, had sought bail since his arrest in June, saying Breyer should not be held in a federal jail.

They argued in court papers he suffered from dementia and other ailments, and continued confinement could speed his deterioration and make it difficult to assist in his defense in Germany.

But federal prosecutors opposed that request, saying Breyer, who was arrested on June 18 and was being held in a ward for elderly and infirm detainees at Philadelphia's Federal Detention Center, was regularly checked on by jail staff and had access to regular medical care.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice, who had denied requests for bail at a hearing in June and after written arguments on July 8, reversed course, citing Breyer's serious medical issues requiring emergency hospitalization and treatment.

Rice canceled a hearing that had been slated for Thursday, and said he would issue a decision on Breyer's extradition based on written arguments.

Neither prosecutors, defense attorneys or the federal Bureau of Prisons immediately responded to requests for comment on what led to his hospitalization, whether he remains in the hospital or whether he made bail.

German authorities are charging him with aiding and abetting the deaths of 216,000 Jews, a figure arrived at by estimating the survival rate of prisoners packed into 158 trains that arrived at Auschwitz from May to October 1944, according to documents.

Breyer served as an armed guard at Buchenwald before transferring in 1944 to Auschwitz where, according to court documents, he has said he served as a perimeter guard.

The retired tool-and-die maker, born in Czechoslovakia, joined the Waffen SS at age 17. He has argued that he was coerced into joining and was not involved in deaths at the camps.

(Reporting by Daniel Kelley in New Jersey; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Eric Walsh)