The testimony of a Florida man in one of Germany’s last Nazi trials has been called into question after German media reported that he is not Jewish.
Moshe Peter Loth, the 76-year-old American witness and co-plaintiff, hit the headlines in November when he tearfully hugged a former Nazi guard in court and said, “watch everyone, I will forgive him.”
The former guard, known as “Bruno D,” is standing trial in Hamburg after being accused of being an accessory to thousands of murders after he joined the SS as a guard between August 1944 and April 1945.
Loth, who claims he is a Holocaust survivor, said he and his Jewish mother were imprisoned at Stutthof concentration camp, in what is modern day Poland, the same time “Bruno D” worked there.
It was at the camp that a prison number was tattooed on his and his mother’s arms, according to documents Loth submitted to the court.
On Monday, Hamburg district court spokesperson Kai Wantzen told CNN that research by the presiding judge Anne Meier-Göring found ”prison numbers were only tattooed in Auschwitz [concentration camp] but not at Stutthof.”
The court — which has been reviewing Loth’s documentation — therefore did not view Loth’s testimony in court as ”particularly credible and plausible,” Wantzen said.
It is unclear whether Loth or his mother, Helene, were incarcerated at the camp together, the court added.
On Monday, Loth withdrew from being part of the trial. He has not withdrawn his testimony, Wantzen added.
Loth’s lawyer Salvatore Barba said in a statement that his mandate has ended “after my client himself withdrew from the co-lawsuit,” adding that he welcomed the decision “despite the expressed lifelong search for his (Loth’) personal history and true identity and the personal suffering he has gone through.”
Cracks began to emerge in Loth’s account in December when German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that Loth’s family were not Jewish. They were protestant, according to documents from the registry office in Dortmund and church register entries seen by Der Spiegel.
CNN has not been able to independently verify Der Spiegel’s reporting on the religion of Loth’s family, and has reached out to the registry office in Dortmund.
Der Spiegel reported that Loth’s mother was imprisoned in the camp, citing records from Stutthof concentration camp. She was held for “education” for a short time in March 1943 and her inmate number was 20038, it reported.
According to camp records seen by CNN, Helene Loth was released from the camp on April 1943 — months before Loth was born, in September 1943.
Der Spiegel’s investigation, as well as CNN, found no evidence of Loth’s Jewish origin in Stutthof concentration camp’s registry.
Barba, Loth’s lawyer, declined to respond to CNN’s request for comment, adding that his response to Der Spiegel still stands.
He told the Der Spiegel that Loth was “seeking his true identity all his life” and only had oral accounts to rely on. Many questions are “unfortunately not answered to this day,” Barba told Der Spiegel.
The lawyer for Holocaust survivor Judith Meisel, who is one of 36 co-plaintiffs in the case, told CNN that the Der Spiegel report “casts a shadow over this criminal case.”
The trial of the 93-year-old “Bruno D” is due to wrap up in May, the court said. According to the indictment, the former Nazi guard knowingly supported the “insidious and cruel killing” of 5,230 people at Stutthof.
Despite his advanced age, the defendant is being tried in a youth court because he was 17 years old when he joined the SS as a guard at the camp, according to a press release from Hamburg’s district court.
Prisoners in Stutthof were killed by being shot in the back of the neck, poisoned with Zyklon B gas, and denied food and medicine, court documents allege.
The defendant told the court at the beginning of his trial that he had no choice at the time. Over the last few months, the court has heard harrowing testimonies from witnesses who now live across the globe.
Stutthof was a Nazi concentration and extermination camp located 22 miles east of Danzig — now the Polish city of Gdańsk.
First established by the Nazis in 1939, Stutthof went on to house a total of 115,000 prisoners, more than half of whom — some 65,000 — died there. Around 22,000 went on to be transferred from Stutthof to other Nazi camps.
It is believed that approximately six million Jewish people died in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Also killed were hundreds of thousands of Roma people and people with mental or physical disabilities.