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Thursday, November 26, 1998 Published at 21:57 GMT

World: Europe

Gestapo man charged

Millions died in concentration camps like Auschwitz

Prosecutors in Germany have charged a former member of the Gestapo secret police with aiding and abetting the deaths of 17,000 people, mostly Jews, at concentration camps in Poland and Ukraine during the Second World War.

The 79-year-old man from Stuttgart has been in police custody since March this year after admitting personal responsibility for 500 deaths and investigations are now underway into his possible involvement in the deaths of 45,000 other concentration camp inmates.

At the time of his arrest, prosecutors say he admitted personally shooting 500 people in a two-day operation at a concentration camp in Poland in November 1943.

He is charged with being an accessory to the other deaths as he was not in a command position - he said he was not a major war criminal and was carrying out orders like many others.

The former Gestapo soldier was held in a prisoner of war camp in Siberia for 13 years after the end of the war and only returned to Germany in 1991.

German war crimes investigators had been searching for the man, an ethnic German who was born in Ukraine, since 1959.

The Stuttgart state prosecutor said the man incriminated himself when giving statements to the investigators here last year.

They say now it is up to the state court in Stuttgart to decide whether and when to bring him to trial.

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