18 Jun 2016

Former Auschwitz guard convicted and jailed

6:49 am on 18 June 2016

A 94-year-old former guard at the Auschwitz death camp has been sentenced to five years in jail.

Reinhold Hanning

Reinhold Hanning Photo: AFP

Reinhold Hanning was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of at least 170,000 people.

He was an SS guard at Auschwitz from 1942 to 1944. He has said he knew what was going on at the camp but did not act to stop it.

The Nazis killed about 1.1 million people - mostly Jews - at Auschwitz in occupied southern Poland.

The verdict came after a trial lasting nearly four months in the western German city of Detmold.

Observers said Hanning, in a wheelchair, remained silent and emotionless for much of the trial, avoiding eye contact with anyone in the courtroom.

It could be one of the last trials of Nazi officials involved in the Holocaust.

At the trial, about a dozen elderly Auschwitz survivors testified against Hanning, giving harrowing accounts of their experiences.

Prosecutors said he met Jewish prisoners as they arrived at the camp and may have escorted some to the gas chambers.

Hanning's lawyers had argued that he had never personally killed or beaten anyone.

He told the court in April: "I want to say that it disturbs me deeply that I was part of such a criminal organisation.

"I am ashamed that I saw injustice and never did anything about it and I apologise for my actions. I am very, very sorry."

German prosecutors were required, until recently, to provide evidence that defendants were directly involved in the killings.

That changed with the 2011 conviction of John Demjanjuk, when a judge concluded that his activities as a camp worker in Nazi-occupied Poland amounted to complicity in mass murder.

Last year a German court sentenced Oskar Groening, 94, to four years in jail as an accessory to the murder of at least 300,000 people at Auschwitz.

Known as the SS "book-keeper of Auschwitz", Groening was allegedly responsible for counting banknotes confiscated from prisoners.

- BBC

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