Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images
Convicted former SS officer Oskar Groening listens to the verdict of his trial in Lueneburg, Germany, July 15, 2015. Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images
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Former Nazi Oskar Groening, 94, Convicted of Accessory to Murder

A German court sentenced to the former SS guard—a bookkeeper at Auschwitz—to four years in prison

by
Jonathan Zalman
July 15, 2015
Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images
Convicted former SS officer Oskar Groening listens to the verdict of his trial in Lueneburg, Germany, July 15, 2015. Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

In April, Oskar Groening, 94, began to stand trial for “complicity in the murder of 300,000 mostly Hungarian Jews in two months during the summer of 1944,” reported the New York Times. Then, he told the court: “It is beyond question that I am morally complicit. This moral guilt I acknowledge here, before the victims, with regret and humility.”

In December 2014, Tablet contributor Zachary Schreiber wrote that the charges against Groening “related to a specific two-month period at the end of the war, between May and July 1944, when an estimated 137 trains arrived at the camp carrying 425,000 people, nearly 300,000 of whom were killed almost immediately upon arrival. Groening was a guard at the camp from 1942 through 1944.”

Prosecutors say that in addition to facilitating the systematic killing at the concentration camp, Groening helped the Nazi regime benefit financially by organizing stolen property from victims.

Greoning, dubbed by the media as “the accountant of Auschwitz,” had insisted that he did not commit any crimes, but rather only witnessed them. In April, Alison Smale of the New York Times described an account of the “atrocities” Groening witnessed:

…one night in December 1942 when he said he was rousted from bed to help hunt down fleeing prisoners. In the process, he told the court, he saw prisoners herded into a building and an SS superior tip gas out of a can into an opening. The screams of the prisoners inside “grew louder and more desperate, and after a short time became quieter and then stopped completely,” Mr. Gröning said.



“That was the only time I saw a complete gassing,” he said, emphasizing that “I did not take part.”

On Wednesday, a German court convicted found Greoning guilty on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

The presiding judge, Franz Kompisch, said “even after 70 years, one can create justice, and one can find a verdict,” he told the court. “There is a hope that the victims could find some peace and some reconciliation,” he said.

Greoning left the courthouse using a walker.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.

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