1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Lawyers demand jail for 'bookkeeper of Auschwitz'

July 7, 2015

Lawyers in the case against former SS officer Oskar Gröning have called for the 94-year-old to be jailed for his role at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Gröning denies personal responsibility.

Oskar Gröning
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Schulze

In the District Court of the Lower Saxon town of Lüneburg on Tuesday, prosecutors demanded a prison sentence of up to three and a half years for Oskar Gröning for complicity in the murder of 300,000 people. However lawyers left it to the discretion of the court to decide if this term would be reduced, due to a previous investigation conducted into the pensioner in the 1970s and 1980s which denied him the right to a speedy trial.

Charges against Gröning, the so-called "bookkeeper of Auschwitz," relate to the "Hungarian Operation" between May and July of 1944, when around 425,000 Jews were transported from Hungary to the camp. Gröning has admitted working at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944 when he was just 21 years old. He says his duties included collecting luggage and valuables from prisoners, as well as working on the ramp where Nazi guards sorted new arrivals into those fit for work, or to be sent to the gas chambers.

Gröning has denied ever personally committing any atrocities, although has talked of his "moral guilt."

"We are confronted here with an event that stretches the limits of human imagination," attorney Jens Lehmann said. "By means of criminal law, it is difficult to grasp."

Lawyers are upset that it has taken so long to get Oskar Gröning to court, particularly considering how frank he has been about serving at Auschwitz. His refusal to admit criminal responsibility and apologize to victims has angered survivors, with lawyer Thomas Walther lamenting the missed opportunity.

Auschwitz survivor Hedy Bohm said she was disappointed Gröning had not said he was sorry, and argued that no prison term could atone for what happened at the camp.

"The sentence has no meaning. It's too late anyway," she said.

The case will continue on Wednesday. A verdict could be handed down as early as next week.

an/kms (AFPD, epd, dpa)