94-year-old former SS sergeant Oskar Groening, who served at the Auschwitz death camp, was convicted Wednesday on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder and given a four-year sentence.
Oskar Groening testified during his trial at the state court in Lueneburg, in northern Germany, that he guarded prisoners’ baggage after they arrived at Auschwitz and collected money stolen from them. Prosecutors said that amounted to helping the death camp function.
The charges against Groening related to a period between May and July 1944 when hundreds of thousands of Jews from Hungary were brought to the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in Nazi-occupied Poland. Most were immediately gassed to death.
Unusually for trials of former Nazi camp guards, Groening has been open about his past throughout the proceedings.
Groening said when his trial opened in April that he bears a share of the moral guilt for atrocities at the camp but that it was up to judges to determine whether he is guilty under criminal law.
In their verdict, judges went beyond the 3 ½-year sentence prosecutors had sought. Groening’s defense team had called for him to be acquitted, arguing that as far as the law is concerned he did not facilitate mass murder.