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Gröning tells court he 'could not have imagined' survival of Jews at Auschwitz

Former SS officer Oskar Gröning, who is on trial in Lüneburg, Germany, has said he "could not have imagined" Jews coming out Auschwitz alive. The 93-year-old is accused of being an accessory to murder in 300,000 cases.

On the third day of Gröning's court case on Thursday, one of the 11 lawyers representing more than 60 joint plaintiffs asked the defendant if he could have imagined that Jews could have left of Auschwitz alive.

"I could not have imagine that," Gröning said after a long silence.

Seven of the 60 plaintiffs were present in the courtroom to testify on Thursday, among whom were survivors of Auschwitz concentration camp and relatives of the victims.

'Auschwitz bookkeeper'

Also discussed in court was whether Gröning was really only responsible for the ramp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

"After my posting on January 31, 1944, I no longer stood on the roster," the 93-year-old told the court.

Gröning, who has also come to be known as the "Auschwitz bookkeeper" currently faces charges for being an accessory to murder in 300,000 cases - the number of Hungarian Jews killed at Auschwitz during the period in question.

While working at Auschwitz in occupied Poland at the age of 21, Gröning's responsibilities included collecting money, luggage and other valuables from arriving prisoners, sorting it and sending it on to the Nazi SS.

The prosecution says this created a benefit for the Nazi regime and supported the systematic killing of Jews and other minorities during World War II.

'Cog in the killing machine'

Prior to the trial, Gröning had openly spoken about his work at Auschwitz during the war. He admitted, however, that he was ashamed of his role, saying he was "a cog in the killing machine," and he maintains that he never personally committed any atrocities.

In an opening statement to the court on Monday, Gröning asked for "forgiveness" after again admitting that his work at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War made him "morally complicit."

Gröning is just one of 30 former Auschwitz personnel who were recommended to state prosecutors in 2013 by the German office investigating Nazi war crimes.

Due to the fact that there are very few former SS soldiers still alive to stand trial, Gröning's is likely to be one of the last of its kind.

ksb/kms (dpa, epd)

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