German court upholds conviction of ex-Auschwitz guard

German court upholds conviction of ex-Auschwitz guard

Oskar Groening, 95, is accused of being accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews at the Nazi camp

Oskar Groening in court
Oskar Groening in court

A federal court in Germany has upheld a conviction against a former SS sergeant who served at the Auschwitz death camp, a lawyer for the 95-year-old has said.

Oskar Groening was convicted in July 2015 of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews and sentenced by a court in Lueneburg to four years in prison.

He said in evidence at his trial that he oversaw the collection of prisoners’ belongings and ensured valuables and cash were separated to be sent to Berlin.

Groening launched an appeal over his conviection, but his lawyer, Hans Holtermann, told news agency dpa on Monday that the Federal Court of Justice has now upheld the verdict. There was no immediate comment from the court.

The decision sets an important precedent for prosecutors’ efforts to pursue others who allegedly served at death camps.

It is the first time an appeals court has ruled on a conviction obtained under the logic that simply serving at a death camp, and thus helping it operate, was enough to convict someone as an accessory to the murders committed there even if there was no evidence of involvement in a specific killing.

At the original trial in Lueneburg, presiding Judge Franz Kompisch said Groening was part of the “machinery of death”, helping the camp function and also collecting money stolen from the victims to help the Nazi cause.

In 2011, former Ohio carworker John Demjanjuk became the first person to be convicted in Germany solely for serving as a death camp guard without evidence of being involved in a specific killing.

Demjanjuk, who always denied serving at the Sobibor camp, died before his appeal could be heard.

A spokesperson for the Holocaust Educational Trust told Jewish News: “we welcome the news that the conviction has been upheld.”

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