An 89-year-old man who is awaiting extradition to Germany on charges of being a Nazi war criminal was granted bail by a Philadelphia judge this week.
The Monday ruling reverses a decision denying bail to Johann Breyer, who was hospitalized over the weekend.
Breyer’s health has deteriorated since he was taken into federal custody last month, as the U.S. Department of Justice initiated extradition proceedings against him.
The retired tool and die maker immigrated to Philadelphia in 1952, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. His lawyer, Dennis Boyle, says in recent years Breyer has suffered a series of mini-strokes and is receiving treatment for dementia and a heart condition.
"His health took a significant turn for the worse," Boyle said Monday. "All I know is what the U.S. marshals told me."
Citing health concerns Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice canceled the extradition hearing that was scheduled this week.
German prosecutors issued a warrant for Breyer last year alleging he worked as a Nazi perimeter guard from 1942 to 1945 at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Investigators maintain that he provided vital support to the death camp, which slaughtered nearly one million Jews.
Breyer was 17 years old in 1942. His attorneys say he was taken from his family farm in what was then Slovakia and pressed into Nazi service. Breyer says he never had any contact with prisoners and had no idea they were be exterminated there.
"Johann Breyer was born in the wrong place at the wrong time," Boyle wrote in a court filing last week. "The persecution of one 90-year-old man who merely wore the uniform of an enlisted member of the SS and went where he was ordered to go cannot atone for the German government's decades-long failure to prosecute those truly responsible."
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