Convicted Auschwitz Guard’s Bid for Clemency Thrown Out

BERLIN (AP) -
Oskar Groening, accountant Auschwitz
Oskar Groening in court during his trial in Lueneburg, Germany, in 2015. (Reuters/Axel Heimken/Pool)

A plea for clemency from a 96-year-old German convicted over his role in the murders of 300,000 people at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland has been rejected, German media cited prosecutors as saying on Wednesday. Oskar Groening, a former Auschwitz death camp guard, had launched a bid for clemency in a final bid to avoid serving his sentence as an accessory to murder.

Attorneys had filed the appeal with prosecutors in Lueneburg, where Groening was convicted in 2015 as an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews. He was sentenced to four years in prison, but hasn’t yet spent any time behind bars because of the appeals process.

A doctor had previously declared Groening fit to go to prison so long as there is appropriate medical care.

Groening exhausted his last chance at legal appeals in December when the country’s highest court rejected his attorneys’ argument that imprisoning him would violate his constitutional right to life and physical safety.

The Federal Constitutional Court noted, however, that German law allows for prison sentences to be interrupted if a prisoner’s health deteriorates significantly.

Hannover prosecutors, who have been handling Groening’s case, told The Associated Press that Groening hasn’t yet been summoned to report to prison following the final court ruling, but that consideration of the clemency appeal shouldn’t delay that process.

Groening, who has been dubbed the “accountant of Auschwitz,” testified at his trial that he oversaw the collection of prisoners’ belongings and ensured that valuables and cash were separated to be sent to Berlin. He said he witnessed individual atrocities, but didn’t acknowledge participating in any crimes.

The court that convicted him ruled, however, that he was part of the “machinery of death,” helping the camp function and collecting money stolen from the victims to help the Nazi cause, and thus could be convicted as an accessory to the murders committed there.