Auschwitz ‘bookkeeper’ dies, 96

Auschwitz ‘bookkeeper’ dies, 96

A former Nazi SS guard, labelled “the bookkeeper of Auschwitz” by the media, has died in hospital before serving a four-year jail sentence. 

Oskar Gröning, 96, was sentenced in 2015 for being an accessory to murder, but never went to jail due to a series of appeals based on his age and ill health.

Of Auschwitz’s 6,500 SS personnel who survived the war, fewer than 50 were ever convicted.

A former corporal in the Waffen SS, Gröning was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people at Auschwitz in Poland.

He was accused of counting cash in the belongings of arrivals and sending it to Berlin. He was also assigned to “ramp duty”, processing deportees as they arrived at the camp.

After the war, Gröning worked as an accountant in a factory without revealing his wartime role but in the mid-1980s he came forward to say he had seen the mass killings in response to Holocaust deniers.

This admission opened him up to prosecution.

“The essential, almost frightening, point about Oskar Gröning is that he is one of the least exceptional human beings you are ever likely to meet,” said Laurence Rees, a BBC journalist.

The legal precedent for prosecuting former Nazis was set in 2011 with Germany’s conviction of former camp guard John Demjanjuk, who was sentenced not for atrocities he was known to have committed, but because he was part of a larger operation.

During his trial, Gröning acknowledged his “moral guilt” and said it was up to the court to rule on his legal responsibility. He said he was “very sorry” for his role. “No one should have taken part in Auschwitz,” Gröning said. “I know that. I sincerely regret not having lived up to this realisation earlier and more consistently.”

During his trial, Gröning admitted that he was “morally complicit” but denied legal guilt.

In 2005 he told Der Spiegel he had been no more than a “cog in the gears”.

A court doctor had decided that Gröning was able to serve his sentence, providing he received nursing and medical care.

Germany’s constitutional court rejected an appeal in December that imprisonment at his age would violate his “right to life”.

A final, formal “request for mercy” was filed in January and no response had been made when Gröning died.


Arrivals at Auschwitz. Picture credit: Wikimedia 


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