by Shelby Vcelka
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe
A German court sentenced Oskar Gröening, a 94-year-old former guard at Auschwitz concentration camp, to four years in prison on July 15th on 300,000 accounts of accessory to murder from May to July 1944. A judge in the city of Luenenburg convicted the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz” for his role in collecting and cataloguing money and the belongings of Jewish prisoners as they entered the camp. Gröening’s trial is expected to be one of the last trials of surviving Nazis for their atrocities in the camps.
Due to Gröening’s age, it is unclear how he will serve his sentence. However, his age was a factor in determining the length of his sentence, as the judge stated “he must still have the chance to spend part of his life in freedom after serving imprisonment.” The four years exceeds the three-and-a-half year sentence wanted by the prosecution.
Although Gröening did not dispute the charges against him, he admitted “moral guilt” for the murders that took place at the camp. He stated his belief that he was a “cog” in a Nazi killing machine, but was not directly responsible for the mass murders that took place. During testimony, Gröening commented, “Auschwitz was a place where you could not simply take part. I agree with that. I sincerely regret that I did not recognize that earlier. I am truly sorry.”
Throughout the trial, Gröening was brutally honest about the horrors he witnessed during his tenure at Auschwitz. He detailed how prison guards decided which prisoners would be killed immediately and which would be selected for work. During the two month period Gröening was convicted for, at least 137 cattle car trains rolled through Auschwitz. Of the 425,000 people that those trains carried, Gröning said 300,000 were immediately chosen for the gas chambers.
The 2011 conviction of concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk as an accessory to mass murder allowed German prosecutors to seek out charges against other former Nazis. Previously, a prison guard had to be convicted of a specific murder in order to be considered for charges. With the conviction of Demjanjuk, the pathway for more Nazi convictions opened, and allowed German prosecutors to seek charges against former officials even if a crime against a specific individual could not be proved. Gröening had faced similar charges in 1985, but the case was dropped due to a lack of evidence.
For more information, please see–
CBS– Auschwitz “accountant” jailed over Nazi killings— 15 July 2015
The Guardian– Former Auschwitz guard Oskar Gröening jailed over mass murder— 15 July 2015
Newsweek–Former Auschwitz Guard Convicted of 300,000 Counts of Accessory to Murder— 15 July 2015
USA Today– Ex-Auschwitz guard, 94, is sentenced to prison— 15 July 2015
Wall Street Journal– Former Auschwitz Guard Oskar Gröning Convicted on 300,000 Counts of Accessory to Murder— 15 July 2015
Washington Post– “Accountant of Auschwitz” sentenced to four years in prison for 300,000 deaths— 15 July 2015