Thursday, 30 November 2017

Former Nazi guard known as 'the Bookkeeper of Auschwitz' could be sent to jail at the age of 96

Oskar Groening has been living at home after appealing his four-year jail sentence
He has been living at home after appealing the four-year sentence for being an accessory to 300,000 murders at Auschwitz.

More than 70 years after the end of the Second World War, a German court ruled on Wednesday that Oskar Groening could go to jail for being complicit in the crimes of the Nazi regime and that it would not violate his fundamental rights.

Groening was found guilty of being an accessory to the murders of 300,000 people at the death camp in July 2015, yet he has still been living at home despite the conviction as he appealed for the sentence to be suspended.

But now he could be sent to prison, with the court in the northern town of Celle hearing from prosecutors that a doctor had determined Groening was able to serve his sentence, so long as he received nursing and medical care.

Groening's lawyer said he would pursue further action to keep his client free and the court said it was not clear when he might be jailed for his role in the regime, which killed more than one million European Jews at Auschwitz alone.

The former SS guard had admitted during his trial that he was an "enthusiastic Nazi" upon his arrival at Auschwitz at the age of 21, and was given an accountancy role tasking him with sorting and counting the money taken from those killed or used as slave labour, before shipping it back to his superiors in Berlin.

Groening also had to process deportees as they arrived by rail in cattle cars, but said he was so horrified by the crimes he witnessed at the camp that he appealed three times to be transferred to the front, which was granted in autumn 1944.

Throughout the trial - attended by Holocaust survivors and their families - he acknowledged "moral guilt" for the role he played, but said he was only a "small cog in the wheel".

He had previously told the German daily Bild of his regret, saying he still heard the screams from the gas chamber decades later.

Such interviews - which he gave in a bid to counter Holocaust denial - left him open to prosecution despite being cleared by German authorities in 1985 after lengthy criminal probes.

The latest case against Groening held the same legal basis as the trials of fellow former Nazi guards John Demjanjuk and Reinhold Hanning, who were convicted on the basis of their involvement in the Nazi killing machine rather than atrocities they were known to have personally committed.

Demjanjuk died in 2012 before his appeal could be heard and Hanning died aged 95 earlier this year, before he could serve his jail term.

Another case against former SS medic Hubert Zafke collapsed in September after the court found that the 96-year-old was unfit to stand trial.

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