Germany seeks to prosecute former Nazi camp guard living in U.S.
September 24, 2012 -- Updated 2039 GMT (0439 HKT)
Johann Breyer admits to having worked as a guard at the notorious Auschwitz camp, pictured here on January 27, 2011.
- Johann Breyer was a guard at Auschwitz, where more than 1 million people were killed
- He denies persecuting anyone, saying he was only a perimeter guard
- Breyer, in the U.S. for 60 years, won a legal battle to keep U.S. citizenship in 2003
- His case is similar to that of John Demjanjuk, who died this year
(CNN) -- Authorities in Germany are investigating whether they can prosecute a former Nazi camp guard who has been living in the United States for 60 years, they said Monday.
Prosecutors are probing the case of Johann Breyer, who admits to having been a guard at the notorious Auschwitz camp, where more than 1 million people, most of them Jews, were killed during World War II.
Breyer, 87, says he was only a perimeter guard and did not persecute anyone, according to legal papers related to his battle to keep his U.S. citizenship.
"He was a trained, paid, uniformed armed Nazi guard who patrolled the perimeters of two such camps with orders to shoot those who tried to escape," a court ruled in 1994.
Breyer won his fight to remain in the United States in 2003, when a court ruled that he was not responsible for having joined a Nazi unit because he was only 17 years old at the time.
But German authorities are investigating evidence against him, and expect to have preliminary results in October, said Gert Schaefer, a spokesman for the chief public prosecutor in the Bavarian town of Weiden.
Breyer emigrated to the United States in 1952 and claimed citizenship as a displaced person.
In the 1990s, the government fought to strip him of his citizenship, arguing that Nazis were not eligible.
Breyer did not dispute having been an SS Totenkopf (Death's Head) guard, responsible for guarding Nazi concentration camps, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Third Circuit, which heard one stage of his legal battle in 1994.
Therefore, "Breyer assisted in persecution," the court ruled.
"The Department of Justice proved in federal court that John (Johann) Breyer participated in Nazi-sponsored acts of persecution while serving as an SS guard at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and the Auschwitz Death Camp during World War II," DOJ spokeswoman Rebekah Carmichael said Monday in a statement.
But, she added, findings about his mother's birth and the date of his SS enlistment made it legally impossible to deport him.
His case is similar to that of John Demjanjuk, the Ukrainian-born Ohio man who spent more than two decades fighting charges that he was a Nazi war criminal before he died this year.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen and Janina Bembenek contributed to this report.
Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
February 8, 2013 -- Updated 0718 GMT (1518 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
Today's five most popular stories