Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Convicted Nazi guard dubbed the 'Bookkeeper of Auschwitz' dies aged 96

Convicted Nazi guard dubbed the 'Bookkeeper of Auschwitz' dies aged 96

German prosecutors said they were notified that a former Nazi death camp guard dubbed the "Accountant of Auschwitz" died before he could begin serving his 4-year sentence.

German prosecutor Kathrin Soefker said he died in hospital on Friday.

Oskar Groening never saw the inside of a prison cell, despite being found guilty of being complicit in the deaths of 300,000 people. In 2015 he became one of the last people to be convicted over Nazi Germany's slaughter of millions during World War II.

He had been expected to enter prison at the end of January, but the continued wrangling over the state of his health kept him from beginning to serve his sentence. He asked for forgiveness and spoke openly of his experiences at the death camp, saying his testimony would stand in opposition to Holocaust deniers.

Groening was pursued through the courts following a landmark case that allowed prosecution for aiding and abetting the Nazis.

Groening never rose above the rank of corporal and said he worked in a back-office role.

Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said it was unfortunate that Groening's conviction didn't result in "at least symbolic justice" for the victims of Auschwitz.

In 2016, Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at Auschwitz, was convicted of having assisted in the deaths of 170,000 people and sentenced to five years in prison.

Groening's conviction extended the doctrine further, opening a door to further trials of alleged Nazi criminals.

For decades after the war, German courts argued that the top Nazi leadership was principally to blame for the mass murder of Jews and that lower-ranking individuals in the Holocaust machinery were bound by a chain of command and, therefore, less culpable.

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