Former Auschwitz guard Reinhold Hanning dies, aged 95 | News | DW | 01.06.2017
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Former Auschwitz guard Reinhold Hanning dies, aged 95

Reinhold Hanning, a former SS member at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, was convicted last year for complicity in 170,000 murders. He was one of only 43 former Auschwitz staff sentenced in German courts.

The attorney representing Reinhold Hanning, a former member of the SS in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, revealed on Thursday that his client had died.

The former SS member had died two days earlier on Tuesday at the age of 95. News of his death had already been widely reported in local media prior to being officially announced.

Hanning was sentenced to five years in prison last June after being found guilty of being an accessory to the deaths of 170,000 people between 1943 and 1944 at Auschwitz. The court in the German town of Detmold ruled that Hanning had been "aware that in Auschwitz innocent people were murdered every day in gas chambers."

However, Hanning died as his case was still being appealed, meaning that he never actually served time in prison. 

Read more: Germany investigating more former Auschwitz worker cases

Although Hanning had expressed his regret in being complicit with the atrocities at Auschwitz, lawyers for the victims accused him of demonstrating a lack of remorse and downplaying his role in events.

One of few trials of its kind

Hanning's was the first such trial that focused on the wider operation of the death camp rather than on those charged with direct involvement in the murders.

His sentence, however, had not yet been finalized, as the federal court was still reviewing a request to revise the sentence from Hanning's attorney.

Hanning had volunteered to join Adolph Hitler's SS at the age of 18. He was based at Auschwitz during the so-called "Hungary Operation" of 1944, a three-month period that saw some 425,000 Hungarian Jews deported to Auschwitz, most of whom were gassed to death.

Read more: Former Auschwitz guard accused of lack of remorse in trial's closing arguments

He was the second former SS member in recent times to have been sentenced to prison. In July 2015, Oskar Gröning, known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz," was sentenced to four years in prison after being found guilty of  300,000 counts of accessory to murder. The court heard that Gröning had been responsible for counting the money taken from new arrivals at Auschwitz and had served on the selection ramp.

This year, it was revealed that the German judicial authority charged with investigating Nazi crimes is investigating three more cases against former workers at Auschwitz

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