An 89-year-old man has been arrested and denied bail in the United States after prosecutors accused him of war crimes as a teenage Nazi guard at Auschwitz.

Auschwitz

Johann Breyer denies being a guard at Aushwitz

Johann Breyer, who was born in Czechoslovakia, admits joining the field artillery unit of the Waffen SS aged 17 but says he deserted weeks later and denies being a guard at the notorious concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. 

The arrest comes after German authorities reopened an investigation into Breyer in 2012. He has now been charged on 158 counts of aiding and abetting Nazi atrocities and faces extradition.

His lawyer said: “He denies any involvement in any war crimes whatsoever. He was never a Nazi. He was as much a victim of the Nazis as anyone else. He did not volunteer to be in the SS, he did not want to be in the SS, he deserted from the SS.”

His lawyer added that the US government had tried to revoke Breyer’s citizenship back in the early 1990s, when allegations first surfaced, but took no action after it was determined at trial he did not serve voluntarily.