A German appeals court has upheld the conviction of an ex-SS sergeant known as “Auschwitz’s bookkeeper.” The 95-year-old clerk was convicted last year as an accessory to murder for cataloging valuables of the condemned.
The German Federal Court of Justice upheld Oskar Gröning’s conviction and prison sentence by a lower court in Lüneburg. Gröning had been convicted in 2015 for aiding in the murder of more than 300,000 at the notorious death camp in Nazi Germany-occupied Poland.
His lawyer said Monday that the high court’s decision to reject Gröning’s appeal ultimately hinged on the question of Gröning’s complicity and sets an important precedent for prosecutors’ efforts to pursue others who served at death camps as support staff. That’s because Gröning was never accused of physically harming anyone directly. Rather, he was convicted on evidence that, by helping sort and assess valuables taken from prisoners as they arrived at the concentration camp, he became part of the camp’s “machinery of death,” as the trial judge termed it.
The ruling could affect other pending Nazi wartime trials, including that of a 95-year-German man who as a teenager worked as a medic at Auschwitz-Birkenau for several weeks in 1944 during which more than a dozen trainloads of Jews arrived, most of whom were systematically murdered in the camp during the final days of World War II.
jar/kl (AP, dpa)