93-year-old Oskar Groening charged by German prosecutors for role in stealing from murdered Jews in infamous death camp.
Oskar Groening, a 93-year-old former guard at the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, was charged by German prosecutors with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder over his role in the genocidal Nazi war machine.
Groening has acknowledged that he witnessed atrocities in his role as a death camp guard, but claims he didn't actively commit any of the atrocities himself, reports Associated Press (AP).
Oskar Groening is accused of helping operate the death camp in occupied Poland between May and June 1944, when some 425,000 Jews from Hungary were brought there and at least 300,000 almost immediately gassed to death.
The prosecutors in Hanover added that Groening helped remove the luggage of victims so that it was not seen by new arrivals, noting "the traces of the mass killing of concentration camp prisoners were thereby supposed to be covered for subsequent inmates." In his job dealing with the belongings stolen from camp victims, prosecutors said among other things he was charged with helping collect and tally money that was found.
They added that he was aware the prisoners deemed unfit to work "were murdered directly after their arrival in the gas chambers of Auschwitz."
"He helped the Nazi regime benefit economically, and supported the systematic killings," state prosecutors in the city of Hannover said in a statement.
According to FOX News, in 2005, Groening told Der Spiegel magazine he recalled one incident on "ramp duty" when he heard a baby crying. "I saw another SS soldier grab the baby by the legs..." he said. "He smashed the baby's head against the iron side of a truck until it was silent."
Groening, who lives in the Hannover area, is one of some 30 former Auschwitz guards who federal investigators recommended last year that state prosecutors pursue charges against under a new precedent in German law.
Groening's attorney, Hans Holtermann, declined to comment on the charges.
AFP notes that a regional court must now decide whether Groening will go on trial.
Groening was arrested in March during a crackdown on Nazi camp guards, which followed the 2011 Munich trial of John Demjanjuk, a Nazi war criminal charged of assisting in the murder of 28,060 people at the Sobibor death camp and sentenced to five years. The former Nazi died in 2012.
The Demjanjuk ruling changed limitations by which Germany only prosecuted Nazi war criminals if witness testimony showed they personally committed atrocities, meaning that now all former Nazi camp guards can be tried for their part in the genocidal mass murder.
Thomas Walther, who represents 20 Auschwitz victims and their families as co-plaintiffs in the case against Groening as allowed under German law, said it's their last chance "to participate in bringing justice to one of the SS men who had a part in the murder of their closest relatives."
"Many of the co-plaintiffs are among the last survivors of Auschwitz," he told The Associated Press.
At Auschwitz roughly one million Jews were murdered, part of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. (INN)