96-year-old German "accountant of Auschwitz" dies before imprisonment
Mar 13 2018 by Desiree Burns
"The death of Oskar Groening just before he was scheduled to begin to serve his sentence in a German jail following his conviction three years ago for accessory to murder is quite unfortunate, at least on a symbolic level", Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and an expert in Nazi war criminals, said in a statement issued Monday.
German magazine Der Spiegel said Groening died on Friday but prison authorities had yet to receive a death certificate.
The lawyer, Hans Holtermann, didn't immediately respond to a request for confirmation.
Groening, a former Auschwitz guard, was found guilty in 2015 for being an accessory to murder in hundreds of thousands of deaths at the concentration camp.
Groening's role at Auschwitz rose to prominence when he gave interviews in 2005 about his work at the camp.
The Lueneburg court concluded that although there was no evidence of involvement in a specific killing, Groening knew that Jews were being slaughtered at the German death camp and supported the killings through his actions.
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It was unclear when Groening would have begun his prison sentence.
But while he admitted witnessing individual atrocities, he did not acknowledge participating in any crimes.
"The essential, nearly frightening, point about Oskar Groening is that he is one of the least exceptional human beings you are ever likely to meet", said author Laurence Rees, who interviewed Groening in 2005.
That approach changed radically after a legal precedent set by the 2011 conviction of John Demjanjuk, who was found guilty by a Munich court as an accessory to the murder of more than 28,000 Jews while he was a guard at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland.
The 96-year-old's lawyer had argued Groening was too frail to go to prison.
Hanning apologized for his wartime service, telling Holocaust survivors that "it disturbs me deeply" to have been a part of the Nazis' genocidal machinery.