Hubert Zafke

29.11.2016 ( Last modified: 13.01.2017 )
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Hubert Zafke was born in 1920 in Pomerania, Germany. He joined the Schutztaffel (SS) in 1940. In 1942 and 1943 he was a medic at the Sachsenhausen and Neuengamme concentration camps. Hubert Zafke was promoted to Unterscharführer (junior squad leader) in the medical service squadron.

From 15 August 1944 to 14 September 1944, Hubert Zafke served at Auschwitz Neustadt concentration camp. Auschwitz was one of the largest and deadliest concentration camps of World War II. During the time Hubert Zafke was stationed at Auschwitz, 3’861 prisoners were allegedly murdered in the gas chambers or otherwise at the camp.

Prior to the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Union, Hubert Zafke had left the camp. He was subsequently captured by British Forces. Hubert Zafke was extradited to Poland.


In 1948, Hubert Zafke was charged in Krakow District Court for being a member of the SS and serving at Auschwitz. He was convicted and served a three-year jail sentence.

In 1948, Hubert Zafke was charged in Krakow District Court for being a member of the SS and serving at Auschwitz. He was convicted and served a three-year jail sentence.

In 2013, German federal prosecutors in Ludwigsburg began the investigation of Germans that served at concentration camps, including Hubert Zafke. He was arrested and indicted as an alleged accomplice to the killing of 3’861 persons at Auschwitz concentration camp, between 15 August 1944 and 14 September 1944. The accused denied the charges against him.

Hubert Zafke was scheduled to stand trial in February 2016. However, the presiding judge determined that Hubert Zafke was unfit to stand trial, owing to his alleged dementia and depression, among other health concerns. The Court of Appeal annulled this decision, deciding that the accused was fit to stand trial.

After being suspended several times due to the Zafke health condition, the trial started again in October 2016. The Prosecutor, as well as the civil parties, have requested the recusal of the first instance judges for their lack of impartiality. This request was denied in December 2016.


The alleged basis of liability for Hubert Zafke under the indictment is a belief that he was at Auschwitz, and that he was working part of the mechanism of the concentration camp with constructive knowledge of the murders occurring. This standard has been found sufficient basis for the convictions of John Demnjanjuk in 2011, Oskar Gröning in 2015, and Reinhold Hanning earlier in 2016.


After the Second World War numerous trials against war criminals and those responsible for Nazi crimes took place in Germany and other countries. It is not possible here to give an overview of all the trials. Below are the main facts concerning the major trials of war criminals at Nuremberg.


The German armed forces surrendered unconditionally on 7-8 May 1945. The Allies (USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France) took over all governmental functions in Germany, instituted the Allied Control Council and divided Germany into four zones of occupation.

After the adoption of the London Charter of 8 August 1945, the Allies set up the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in order to judge the major German war criminals. Annex III of the Agreement contains the Statute of the International Military Tribunal (IMT Statute [2]).


According to Articles 1-3 of the London Charter, war criminals with offenses having no particular geographical location were to be judged by the IMT. However in accordance with Articles 4 and 6 of the Convention, the principle of territoriality was to apply to the other German war criminals, with the courts of those states where crimes had been committed having the competence to try these criminals on the basis on their national laws.

Crimes within the jurisdiction of IMT:

– Crimes against peace;

– War crimes and

– Crimes against humanity (Article 6 of IMT Statute).

The IMT was composed of four judges and four substitutes who were appointed by the four Allied powers (Article 2 IMT Statute). In application of Article 13 of the IMT Statute, the Tribunal drew up its own Rules of Procedure

The IMT indicted 24 people in total. The trials took place from 14 November 1945 until 1 October 1946. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. In one case, the procedure was suspended for health reasons and in another the defendant committed suicide before his trial.