‘Ac­coun­tant of Auschwitz’ stand­ing trial in Ger­many; linked to 300,000 deaths


A 93-year-old for­mer Auschwitz guard went on trial Tues­day ac­cused of 300,000 counts of ac­ces­sory to mur­der, in a case that will test the ar­gu­ment that any­one who served as a guard at a Nazi death camp was com­plicit in what hap­pened there.

Oskar Groen­ing is al­leged to have served at Auschwitz be­tween May and June 1944, when some 425,000 Jews, Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses and ho­mo­sex­u­als from Hun­gary were brought there and at least 300,000 al­most im­me­di­ately gassed to death.

Pros­e­cu­tors say that he helped col­lect and tally money as part of his job deal­ing with the be­long­ings stolen from camp vic­tims, earn­ing him the moniker “Ac­coun­tant of Auschwitz.”

Groen­ing doesn’t deny serv­ing as a guard there, but says he com­mit­ted no crime. As he ar­rived at the back en­trance of the court in the town of Lueneb­urg, south of Ham­burg, Groen­ing told re­porters that he ex­pects an ac­quit­tal. He faces a max­i­mum sen­tence of 15 years if found guilty.

Groen­ing’s trial is the first to test a new line of Ger­man legal rea­son­ing that has un­leashed an 11th-hour wave of new in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Nazi war crimes sus­pects. Pros­e­cu­tors ar­gue that any­one who was a death camp guard can be charged as an ac­ces­sory to mur­ders com­mit­ted there, even with­out ev­i­dence of in­volve­ment in a spe­cific death.

“He helped the Nazi regime ben- efit eco­nom­i­cally,” the in­dict­ment said, “and sup­ported the sys­tem­atic killings.”

There are cur­rently 11 open in­ves­ti­ga­tions against for­mer Auschwitz guards, and charges have been filed in three of those cases in­clud­ing Groen­ing’s. A fur­ther eight for­mer Ma­j­danek guards are also un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

About 60 Holo­caust sur­vivors or their rel­a­tives from the U.S., Canada, Is­rael and else­where have joined the pros­e­cu­tion as co-plain­tiffs, as is al­lowed un­der Ger­man law.

Eva Pusz­tai-Fahidi, an Auschwitz sur­vivor and co-plain­tiff who is also ex­pected to tes­tify, told re­porters ahead of the trial that even 70 years af­ter the end of the war, it is never too late to try to seek jus­tice.


For­mer SS guard Oskar Groen­ing steps out of a car as he ar­rives at the back en­trance of the court hall prior to a trail against him in Lueneb­urg, north­ern Ger­many on Tues­day, April 21.

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