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Gröning downplays 'ramp' duties

April 22, 2015

A former Waffen-SS soldier who worked at the Auschwitz concentration camp has said he did not spend much time working the "ramp." His trial is likely to be one of the last of former workers from the camp.

Deutschland Oskar Gröning Prozess in Lüneburg
Image: AFP/Getty Images/R. Hartmann

On the second day of Oskar Gröning's trial in the northern German city of Lüneburg on Wednesday, the 93-year-old said he was assigned to work the "ramp" three times between May and July 1944, according to Germany's NDR broadcaster. This referred to the selection process that determined if new prisoners arriving at Auschwitz were fit to work or if they were to be sent to their deaths in the camp's gas chambers.

The time period sets the parameters for the German prosecution's case against Gröning. He is accused of being an accessory to murder in 300,000 cases, referring to the number of Hungarian Jews killed at Auschwitz during the period in question. The former member of the Nazi Waffen-SS worked at Auschwitz in occupied Poland at the age of 21.

Gröning said he did not regularly take part in ramp duty. His responsibilities at the camp included collecting money, luggage and other valuables from arriving prisoners, sorting it, and sending it on to the Nazi SS. The prosecution said this created a benefit for the Nazi regime and supported the systematic killing of Jews and other minorities during World War II.

On the on Tuesday, he admitted to his "moral guilt" but said it would be up to the court to decide if he was criminally culpable.

Dozens of Auschwitz survivors are co-plaintiffs in the case, which could be one of the last of its kind due to the fact that most former Auschwitz soldiers have already died.

Prior to the trial, Gröning had been open about the fact that he worked at Auschwitz during the war. Although he admitted that he was ashamed of his role, saying he was "a cog in the killing machine," he maintains that he never personally committed any atrocities. The charges against him do not accuse him of direct involvement in the killing.

mz/kms (dpa, ndr, AFP, Reuters)