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. ••