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Holocaust Survivor Reacts To Nazi Probe Focusing On Philadelphia Man

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By Robin Rieger

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — At the Klein Jewish Community Center in Northeast Philadelphia, seniors gather for activities and conversation. It’s where Rita Silberstein talked about a part of her past that she has in common with other survivors of the Holocaust.

“They put us on the train and we arrived to [the camp],” said Silberstein.

She says she was just 20 in 1944 when she and her mother were taken to a death camp with millions of Jews and separated forever.

“I was looking for my mother; I didn’t know they put her in the crematorium,” Silberstein says.

But she lives without bitterness and says she holds no grudge against 87-year-old Johann Breyer of Northeast Philadelphia, where a note on his door reads, “We have no comment, please leave.”

The U.S. Justice Department says it proved in court that Breyer had participated in Nazi-sponsored acts while serving as an S.S. guard at Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps during World War II. The Associated Press reports that the special German office that investigates Nazi war crimes wants Breyer extradited and charged with accessory to murder. Silberstein does not.

“I would like to talk to him, how he came to,” she says.

To the Associated Press, Breyer admitted he was a guard.

“I didn’t kill anybody, I didn’t rape anybody and I don’t even have a traffic ticket here…I didn’t do anything wrong,” Breyer said.

Silberstein says what Breyer was told to do may not have been what he wanted to do. Klein Jewish Community Center CEO Andre Krug disagrees.

“If you knew what was going on, in my opinion, it means you were a part of that. If this is the case, he needs to be deported,” Krug says.

The U.S. Justice Department could deport Breyer after a lengthy process because his mother was an American citizen and he was only 17 when he enlisted. They also can’t comment on what the German government might do, but says the Justice Department has a more than 40 year record of close cooperation with European governments seeking to prosecute Nazi crimes, including evidence sharing, facilitation of extradition and deportation.

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