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Oscar Gröning dead at 96: Nazi SS guard dubbed the 'Bookkeeper of Auschwitz' dies before starting prison sentence

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 12/3/2018 Tom Powell

A former Nazi SS guard dubbed the "Bookkeeper of Auschwitz" has died aged 96 – before serving a day of his four-year prison sentence.

Oskar Gröning died in a German hospital on Friday, according to his lawyer.

One of the last Nazis to face trial over their roles in the Second World War, Gröning was convicted of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews in 2015.

But he never began his jail term due to a series of appeals as well as delays caused by his ill health.

a group of people in uniform: groning1203b.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited groning1203b.jpg
Gröning worked at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War (Getty Images Europe)

The former Nazi officer oversaw the collection of prisoners' belongings at Auschwitz and ensured valuables and cash were separated to be sent to Berlin.

He claimed in his trial that he had never had a direct role in the mass killings at the concentration camp, although he was aware of them.

He told the judges: "I ask for forgiveness. I share morally in the guilt - but whether I am guilty under criminal law, you will have to decide."

a bicycle parked on the side of a building: 20Auschwitz2701c.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited 20Auschwitz2701c.jpg
More than a million people are estimated to have died at Auschwitz during the Second World War

The Lueneburg court convicted Gröning on the grounds that he knew Jews were being slaughtered and supported the killings through his actions.

All of his appeals were rejected, and it was only his ill health that kept him from being sent to prison in recent years.

Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said it was unfortunate that Gröning's conviction did not result in "at least symbolic justice" for the victims of Auschwitz.

a man wearing glasses posing for the camera: OskarGroening3.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited OskarGroening3.jpg
Gröning as a young man in an SS uniform (AP)

In 2011, former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk became the first person 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.

In 2016, former SS sergeant Reinhold Hanning was convicted on 170,000 counts of accessory to murder for serving as an Auschwitz guard.

He, too, died before he could begin serving his five-year-sentence.

Hanning apologised for his wartime service, telling Holocaust survivors that "it disturbs me deeply" to have been a part of the Nazis' genocidal machinery.

© Provided by Independent Print Limited Oskar Gröning sitting in front of a laptop © Provided by Independent Print Limited

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