Former Terezin guard sentenced to life in prison for killing Jewish inmate

Anton Malloth

A court in Munich sentenced an 89-year-old former Nazi guard at the Terezin concentration camp to life in prison on Wednesday, for the murder of one Jewish prisoner and the attempted murder of another. Anton Malloth - nicknamed 'Handsome Tony' by inmates - was a cruel, sadistic man, driven by racial hatred and committed to the Nazi cause. He is believed to have killed dozens of Jewish prisoners at the camp - but in the end just one murder conviction was enough to have him sentenced to life. Rob Cameron has more.

Anton Malloth today
Anton Malloth is the first guard at Terezin - situated some 50 kilometres north of Prague - to be sentenced since the camp was liberated at the end of the Second World War. For 56 years he managed to evade justice, as prosecutors and lawyers wrangled over evidence and whether or not he is a German citizen. Born in Austria, Malloth fled to Italy after the war, and was sentenced to death in absentia by a Czechoslovak court in 1948. Forty years later, in 1988, he was finally extradited to Germany, but only thanks to fresh testimony from an 80-year-old former Terezin inmate was Malloth finally brought to trial this year.

The court heard how one day in 1944 the former SS company commander clubbed one man to death and then stamped on his lifeless body, shouting "Jew pig". He was also convicted of trying to shoot another Jewish inmate for stealing a cauliflower. Survivors of Terezin say he killed, tortured and humiliated dozens more, but in the end those two convictions were enough for the Munich court. The Czech writer Ivan Klima was sent to Terezin as a young boy, not to the Small Fortress where Malloth was stationed, but to the nearby ghetto, where Jewish prisoners were held. He says the crimes committed during the Nazi occupation - and the Communist regime that followed it - were unique, and must be treated as such.

"It was a special kind of crimes that were committed during the Nazi period and under the Communist regime, because these crimes were approved by a leading power, by a leading ideology, and this sentence - even if there has been such a delay - stresses that everybody is responsible for his own acts. They cannot be [excused] by any leading power, any kind of order. Nobody is allowed to torture and murder other people, without any reason."

The Nazis used Terezin - Theresienstadt in German - as a transit camp during the Second World War, and more than a half of those imprisoned there lost their lives - about a fifth of them in the fortress itself, the rest in Nazi death camps. Of the 200,000 prisoners in Terezin, some 15,000 were children, only one hundred of whom survived.

Presiding judge Juergen Hanreich described Malloth as an active Nazi criminal who had "sadistically lived out his ideologically-founded abysmal hatred". The sentence, he told the court, was a warning that anyone violating human rights "will be brought to book for the rest of their days". Ivan Klima is sceptical that today's neo-Nazis will take heed of the warning, but says the crimes of the past - including that of the 40-year Communist regime in Czechoslovakia - must never be forgotten.

"We shouldn't let our past - the Czech past, our 1950s - [go] without any punishment or trial. I don't even think it's necessary to arrest people, but to say they were criminals and they committed crimes against humanity. This is very important. It happened here so many times. Hundreds of thousands of people were tortured in Czech concentration camps [set up by the Communist regime] in the 1950s, and with three or four exceptions, nobody was punished."