A 93-year-old man has been charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for his role as an SS guard at Auschwitz concentration camp, prosecutors said today.
A sergeant, Oskar Groening worked at the camp in German occupied Poland for two and a half years.
Groening was charged with sorting the possessions of the inmates and collecting and tallying any money that was on them.
A picture taken in January 1945 shows children in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim
At least 1.1 million prisoners died at Auschwitz, around 90 per cent of them Jewish. In one period between May and June 1944, 425,000 Hungarian Jews went there and around 300,000 were immediately sent to the gas chambers.
Hanoverian prosecutors said of Groening: “He helped the Nazi regime benefit economically, and supported the systematic killings.”
Groening’s lawyer, Hans Holtermann, refused to comment on the charges.
He was never punished after the war, a tribunal cleared him of involvement in 1948, but Groening who worked as the manager of a glass factory has openly talked about his time as a guard and said that he witnessed atrocities.
The main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz I, near
Oswiecim , Poland, which was liberated by the Russians in January 1945.
Writing on the gate reads: Arbeit macht frei (Work sets you free – or
A group of SS officers gathered in front of a building at
Solahutte, the SS retreat outside of Auschwitz, Poland. From left, Josef
Kramer, Dr. Josef Mengele, Richard Baer, Karl Hoecker and an unknown
SS officers socialising in the grounds of their retreat,
Solahutte outside of Auschwitz, Poland. From left, Dr Josef Mengele,
Rudolf Hoess (the former Commandant of Auschwitz), Josef Kramer
(Commandant of Birkenau), and an unknown officer
Nine years ago, he was interviewed by Der Spiegel and told the magazine of one incident
when he heard a baby crying: “I saw another SS soldier grab the baby by the legs… He smashed the baby’s head against the iron side of a truck until it was silent.
‘On one night in January 1943 I saw for the first time how the Jews were actually gassed. It was in a half-built farmyard near to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. A gas chamber was built there.
The women’s barracks in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim
All that remains: A pile of shoes from prisoners at the Auschwitz museum near former death camp Auschwitz
‘There were more than 100 prisoners and soon there were panic-filled cries as
they were herded into the chamber and the door was shut.
‘Then a sergeant with a gas mask went to a hole in the wall and from a tin shook
Zyklon B gas pellets inside. In that moment the cries of the people inside rose to a crescendo, a choir of madness. These cries I have ringing in my ears to this day.
Members of the SS Helferinnen (female auxiliaries) and SS officer
Karl Hoecker sit on a fence railing in Solahutte eating bowls of
blueberries in Auschwitz
‘It was completely understood by all that the majority were going straight to the gas chamber, although some believed they were only going to be showered before going to work. Many
Jews knew they were going to die.’
‘I made an application for a transfer and at the end of October 1944 I was shipped to the Belgian
Ardennes where I served with a fighting unit until capture.’
Groening, who lives near the Lueneburg Heath in Lower Saxony, is one of around 30
former Auschwitz guards who federal investigators recommended last year that state prosecutors pursue charges against under a new precedent in German law.
Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler was buried in an unmarked grave at Lueneburg Heath after his suicide in May 1945, following his capture by the British.
Groening is the fourth case investigated by Hanoverian authorities — two have been abandoned because
the suspects are unfit for trial, and one was closed when the suspect died.
Herr Holtermann said, however, his client is in good health.
Thomas Walther, who represents 20 Auschwitz victims and their families as co-plaintiffs in the case against Groening as allowed under German law, said it’s their last chance “to participate in bringing justice to one of the SS men who had a part in the murder of their closest relatives.”
“Many of the co-plaintiffs are among the last survivors of Auschwitz.”
| Mail Online