A 93-year-old man who was deported from the US for lying about his Nazi past has been arrested by German authorities over allegations he served as an Auschwitz death camp guard.
Hans Lipschis was taken into custody after authorities concluded there was "compelling evidence" he was involved in crimes at Auschwitz while there from 1941 to 1945, prosecutor Claudia Krauth said.
Lipschis has acknowledged being assigned to an SS guard unit at Auschwitz but maintains he only served as a cook and was not involved in any war crimes.
Ms Krauth said, however, that a judge upheld her office's request for an arrest warrant after concluding there was enough evidence to hold him before charges on accessory to murder are brought. Bringing formal charges, a process similar to a US grand jury indictment, would take another two months, she said.
In the meantime, Ms Krauth said a doctor has confirmed Lipschis' health remains good enough for him to be kept in detention.
Lipschis does not currently have an attorney, she said. Lipschis was deported from the US in 1983 for lying about his Nazi past when he migrated to Chicago in the 1950s.
With no evidence linking him to specific war crimes, however, it was impossible under previous German law to bring charges against him in Germany.
But the case is now being pursued on the same legal theory used to prosecute former Ohio car worker John Demjanjuk, who died last year while appealing his 2011 conviction in Germany for accessory to murder on the grounds that he served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp.
Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi hunter with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, called the arrest of Lipschis – who is No 4 on his current list of "most wanted Nazis" – a good start.