A 94-year-old former SS sergeant who served at the Auschwitz death camp has been convicted on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder and given a four-year sentence. Oskar Groening testified during his trial at the state court in Lueneburg, in northern Germany, that he guarded prisoners' baggage after they arrived at Auschwitz and collected money stolen from them. Prosecutors said that amounted to helping the death camp function. The charges against Groening related to a period between May and July 1944 when hundreds of thousands of Jews from Hungary were brought to the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in Nazi-occupied Poland. Most were immediately gassed to death.
Unusually for trials of former Nazi camp guards, Groening, who was dubbed the "accountant of Auschwitz" by German media, was open about his past throughout the proceedings. He said when his trial opened in April that he bears a share of the moral guilt for atrocities at the camp but that it was up to judges to determine whether he is guilty under criminal law. His defense team had called for him to be acquitted, arguing that as far as the law is concerned he did not facilitate mass murder. During the trial, which prosecutors described as "the last Auschwitz trial on Earth," Groening said he "can only ask forgiveness from the Lord." (Read more Auschwitz stories.)