Mr. Reinhold Hanning at his trial ©AFP/Getty Images
Today, the Detmold Court in Germany sentenced Mr. Reinhold Hanning to five years in jail for his former role as a guard at Auschwitz from 1942 to 1944. The 94-year-old was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of at least 170,000 people. Mr. Hannig had acnkowledged that he knew what was happening in the camp but that he did nothing to stop it.
During the trial, about a dozen Auschwitz survivors testified. Mr. Hanning told the court “I am ashamed that I saw injustice and never did anything about it and I apologise for my actions. I am very, very sorry.”
Until 2011, German prosecutors were required to provide evidence that defendants were directly involved in the killings. That changed with the conviction of John Demjanjuk, when a judge concluded that his activities as a camp worker in Nazi-occupied Poland amounted to complicity in mass murder.
German prosecutors have charged a 91-year-old woman as an accessory to the murder of 260,000 people at Auschwitz on allegations she was a member of the Nazi SS who served in the death camp complex.
The woman, who has not been named under German privacy laws, is accused of having served as a member of the SS at the concentration camp.
The 91-year-old woman, a resident of Schleswig-Holstein, is accused of having been an SS radio operator at Auschwitz from April to July 1944.
Although her involvement in the mass killings at the camp may have been peripheral, prosecutors argue she can be held accountable because she helped the camp function.
There are no indications at the moment that the woman is unfit for trial.
Today started what should be one the final trials for Nazi war crimes in Lueneburg, Germany. Oskar Groening, former guard at Auschwhitz, is facing charges of accessory to the murder of about 300,000 Jews from May to June 1944.
Mr. Groening leaves the court building after the first day of the trial against him ©Markus Schreiber/AP
Now 93 years old, Mr. Groening was 21 when he arrived in Auschwitz and describes his role as purely executive. Mr. Groening was repsonsible for collecting the belongings of the deportees and counting money confiscated at their arrival. The “bookkeeper” nonetheless admitted his moral guilt, which for him differs from his legal guilt. “If you can describe that as guilt, then I am guilty, but not voluntarily. Legally speaking, I am innocent,” he told Der Spiegel in 2005.
In a documentary to the BBC in 2005, Mr. Groening has decided to come forward and testify about what he witnessed in Auschwitz. His objective, he said, was to fight Holocaust deniers: “I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria.”
Charges were first brought against Mr. Groening in the 1980s, but they had to be dropped because of a lack of evidence. Following more recent jurisprudence, prosecutors now believe Mr. Groening could be convicted just for having worked at the camp. If found guilty, he could face three to 15 years in prison.