By Audra Fulkerson,
International News Writer
German prosecutors have charged a 93-year-old man as an accessory to 300,000 murders at the Auschwitz concentration camp back in World War II.
Oskar Gröning of Lower Saxony has been accused of having collected money and valuables from Nazi victim’s luggage upon their arrival at the Birkenau rail platform.
He then supposedly turned this money over to the Schutzstaffel (SS) headquarters in Berlin. The Schutzstaffel functioned as the military officers under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
Gröning himself has already publicly spoken about his role at the concentration camp during interviews with the Der Spiegel magazine and the British Broadcasting Company.
The prosecution is basing the charges on a two month period from May 16 to July 11, 1944 during the Nazi occupation of Hungary. 137 trains arrived to the platform during this time with 425,000 prisoners from Hungary, which had a large Jewish population.
300,000 of these prisoners would perish in the concentration camp after disembarking from the train.
The Public Attorney’s Office in Hanover, which focuses on crimes committed under the Nazi regime, alleged that Gröning was aware of the fate that awaited these people.
An investigation on Gröning in 1985 had been previously dropped due to a lack of evidence of his involvement in Nazi crimes.
At that point in time, the precedent had required that defendants be prosecuted for specific murders of specific victims. However, a 2011 ruling has changed that precedent.
In 2011, retired U.S. auto worker John Demjanjuk was sentenced to 5 years of prison for acting as an accessory to the murder of 28,000 people while working as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Poland.
In convicting him, the courts had changed the precedent of needing the evidence of specific crimes pertaining to specific people. Some 6,000 cases from the 1970s have been reinvestigated since the Demjanjuk verdict.
An issue in this case is the age of those involved in the investigation. Earlier this year, a court in southwestern Germany declined to try a 94-year-old man for aiding the murder of 10,510 people at Auschwitz, declaring that he was unfit to stand trial due to health reasons.
Many of the 6,000 cases that were recently reinvestigated have led to the discovery that the investigated have already passed away, due to natural means.
Because of such concerns, Gröning himself may be found unable to stand trial, even though his lawyer has commented that at this point in time he is still in good health.
However, in waiting, there are already at least 16 applications from survivors and relatives of survivors of Auschwitz to act as secondary plaintiffs in the case.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 23 print edition.
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