Ex-Auschwitz guard appeal fails
Oskar Gröning apparently sorted through inmates’ possessions. Source: Pixabay
The German federal court has rejected a 95-year-old former Auschwitz camp guard’s appeal against his conviction for being an accessory to murder.
The decision by the Germany’s supreme court to uphold Oskar Gröning’s conviction sets a precedent for prosecutors’ efforts to pursue others who worked at death camps. It overturns a 1969 ruling that working at Auschwitz was not enough to secure a conviction.
Gröning was convicted in July last year of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews and sentenced by a Lüneburg court to four years in jail. Gröning told the court that he oversaw the collection of belongings and ensured valuables and cash were sent to Berlin. He said he saw atrocities, but did not acknowledge participating.
The Federal Court of Justice also rejected appeals from several survivors and their relatives who had joined the trial as co-plaintiffs, as is allowed under German law, and were seeking harsher charges. The frail Groening admitted moral guilt but said it was up to the judiciary to decide whether he was legally guilty. During the trial he said he could only ask God to forgive him as he could not ask this of victims of the Holocaust.
He has expressed regret and spoke openly of Auschwitz experiences, saying he wanted to counter Holocaust deniers.
It is the first time an appeals court has ruled on a conviction that serving at a death camp, and therefore helping it operate, was enough to convict someone as an accessory to the murders committed, although there was no evidence of involvement in any killing.
At the first trial, Judge Franz Kompisch said Gröning was part of the “machinery of death” which helped the camp function and collected assets stolen from the victims.
The appeal court ruled that Gröning’s responsibilities included keeping watch on prisoners and preventing resistance or attempts to flee by force.
Prosecutors will now decide whether Groening is in good enough health to serve his sentence.
In 2011, John Demjanjuk, a former Ohio car manufacturer, became the first person convicted in Germany for serving as a camp guard without evidence of being involved in a killing. Demjanjuk, who denied serving at the notorious Sobibor death camp, died before his appeal could be heard.