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Nazi Auschwitz worker to stand trial in April, aged 93

February 2, 2015

A 93-year-old former Auschwitz death camp officer will go on trial in Germany in April. Oskar Groening faces charges over some 425,000 people believed to have been deported to the camp between May and July 1944.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The regional court in the northern German city of Lüneburg said on Monday that Oskar Groening's trial, expected to be one of the last of its kind, would start on April 21.

Groening, a former member of the Nazi Waffen-SS, was employed at the Auschwitz death camp in occupied Poland from the age of 21. Known as the "bookkeeper," he was responsible for counting the banknotes gathered from prisoners' luggage and passing them on to the SS authorities in Berlin.

When he was charged in the northern German city of Hanover last year, prosecutors said Groening also helped remove victims' luggage to prevent it from being seen by new arrivals - thereby hiding the traces of the Nazi mass killing.

He was also aware that those among the predominantly Jewish prisoners who were deemed unfit to work "were murdered directly after their arrival in the gas chambers of Auschwitz."


At least 300,000 of more than 425,000 people deported to Auschwitz over the thee-month period in question were killed in the gas chambers.

"I was ashamed for decades and I am still ashamed today," said Groening.

"Not of my acts, because I never killed anyone. But I offered my aid. I was a cog in the killing machine that eliminated millions of innocent people."

Fifty-five co-plaintiffs, predominantly survivors and victims' relatives, will be represented at the trial in April.

Landmark ruling

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

The renewed drive to bring justice to the last surviving perpetrators of the Holocaust came following a 2011 landmark court ruling.

For more than 60 years, Nazi war criminals had only been prosecuted if evidence proved that they had personally committed atrocities.

In 2011, however, a Munich court sentenced John Demjanjuk to five years imprisonment for collaborating in the extermination of Jews at the Sobibor camp, also in occupied Poland, where he served as a guard.

Last Tuesday, official delegations from some 40 nations and 300 survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau converged on the former Nazi death camp to mark the 70th anniversary of its liberation by the Soviet Red Army on January 27, 1945.

In total, approximately 11 million people were killed during the Holocaust, both shortly before as well as during the Second World War. At Auschwitz-Birkenau alone, some 1.1 million people, including European Jews, lost their lives.

ksb/rg (AFP, dpa)