German authorities say they have arrested a 93-year-old alleged former Auschwitz guard who once lived in the United States on suspicion of accessory to murder.
Hans Lipschis was taken into custody after prosecutors concluded there was "compelling evidence" that he was involved in crimes at Auschwitz while there from 1941 to 1945.
Lipschis acknowledges he served with the Nazi SS in the notorious death camp but claims he was only a cook. About 1.5 million people, primarily Jews, were killed at the camp complex.
Lipschis was deported from the US in 1983 for lying about his Nazi past when he immigrated to Chicago in the 1950s after the war. Stuttgart prosecutors say a doctor confirmed his health remains good enough for him to be kept in detention.
The case is being pursued under the same legal theory used to prosecute former Ohio mechanic John Demjanjuk, who died last year while appealing against his 2011 conviction in Germany for accessory to murder on the grounds that he served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp.
Under the new line of thinking, even without proof of participation in a specific crime, a person who served at a death camp can be charged with accessory to murder because the camp's sole function was to kill people.
Even though the Demjanjuk conviction is not considered legally binding because he died before his appeals were exhausted, the special German prosecutors' office that deals with Nazi crimes has said about 50 other people in the same category are being investigated.
"This is a very positive step, we welcome the arrest," he said in a telephone interview from Israel. "I hope this will only be the first of many arrests, trials and convictions of death camp guards."
In an interview last month with Die Welt newspaper at his home in south-western Germany, Lipschis said he spent his entire time as a cook and had witnessed none of the atrocities. He did say, however, that he "heard about" what was going on.