Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

''Bookkeeper of Auschwitz'' Oskar Groening dies before starting sentence

''Bookkeeper of Auschwitz'' Oskar Groening dies before starting sentence

Oskar Groening, defendant and former Nazi SS officer dubbed the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz" leaves the court after the announcement of his verdict in Lueneburg, Germany, July 15, 2015.

Groening had yet to begin his four-year jail term for being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 of the Polish concentration camp's roughly 1 million victims. Groening himself did not kill murder any people at Auschwitz.

Oskar Groening never saw the inside of a prison cell, despite being found guilty of being complicit in the deaths of 300,000 people.

"I ask for forgiveness", Groening told the judge during his trial.

After the war, he made a life in Lüneburg Heath, Lower Saxony, Germany, and worked in a glass-making factory. "I share morally in the guilt but whether I am guilty under criminal law, you will have to decide". Decades later, he chose to speak publicly about his experiences during the war - becoming one of a very small number of Nazi personnel to do so.

"The screams became louder and more desperate but after a short time they became quieter again", Groening said. At his trial, he said he witnessed individual atrocities, but did not acknowledge participating in any crimes.

Of the estimated 6,500 Auschwitz guards who survived the war, fewer than 50 were ever convicted.

His case followed the conviction of former concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk, who was sentenced because he had served at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland - rather than for crimes he was known to have committed.

German magazine Der Spiegel said Groening died on Friday but prison authorities had yet to receive a death certificate. He added: "Without at least symbolic justice, these trials - as important as they are - lose an important part of their significance".

"Their victims never had any appeals, nor did their tormentors have any mercy, consequently these perpetrators don't deserve either", the group said in a statement.

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