NE man, 89, arrested in connection to WWII concentration camps

An 89-year-old North­east man who had worked in the in­fam­ous Aus­chwitz death camp dur­ing World War II was ar­res­ted by fed­er­al au­thor­it­ies last week on a re­quest for his ex­tra­di­tion to Ger­many.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Phil­adelphia of­fice, a Ger­man court last year is­sued a war­rant for the ar­rest of Jo­hann Brey­er, also known as John Brey­er, in which he was charged with com­pli­city in the com­mis­sion of 158 counts of murder at the Aus­chwitz II-Birkenau camp in Ger­man-oc­cu­pied Po­land.

Brey­er’s ex­tra­di­tion must be ap­proved by a fed­er­al judge. He was brought in­to fed­er­al court on June 18.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. At­tor­ney’s of­fice, Ger­man au­thor­it­ies ac­cused Brey­er of com­pli­city in the murders of 158 train­loads of European Jew­ish de­portees.

“Ap­prox­im­ately 216,000 Jew­ish men, wo­men and chil­dren from Hun­gary, Ger­many and Czechoslov­akia, trans­por­ted by these trains, were murdered in gas cham­bers and cremated upon their ar­rival at Aus­chwitz II-Birkenau between May 1944 and Oc­to­ber 1944,” ac­cord­ing to the U.S. At­tor­ney’s court pa­pers.

Amer­ic­an au­thor­it­ies said the June 17, 2013, Ger­man war­rant is based on his­tor­ic­al re­cords and find­ings of post-war Ger­man courts. Those re­cords show, the U.S. At­tor­ney wrote, that Brey­er served with units as­signed to the death camp between Decem­ber 1943 and Janu­ary 1945. The court pa­pers state that no guard was a spe­cial­ist and that all guards’ du­ties in­volved es­cort­ing the Jew­ish pris­on­er-de­portees to gas cham­bers for ex­term­in­a­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. at­tor­ney:

• Brey­er was born in East­ern Slov­akia of an eth­nic­ally Ger­man fam­ily. His moth­er was born in Manay­unk and had re­turned to the Ger­man vil­lage of Neuwald­dorf be­fore World War I. He al­legedly vol­un­tar­ily en­lis­ted in the SS when he was 17. After train­ing, he served in the Waf­fen-SS Death’s Head Guard Bat­talion 8th Com­pany at the Buch­en­wald con­cen­tra­tion camp and was soon trans­ferred to Aus­chwitz. The U.S. at­tor­ney said there is no dis­put­ing Brey­er was as­signed to the camp.

• Brey­er ad­mit­ted in 1991 to U.S. De­part­ment of Justice at­tor­neys that he was as­signed to Aus­chwitz and had heard it was “a ter­rible camp” and he knew people had died there. Pho­to­graphs of Brey­er and the af­fi­davit of a former Justice at­tor­ney con­firm that Jo­hann Brey­er of the 9400 block of Wood­bridge Road is the man Ger­man au­thor­it­ies are seek­ing. ••

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