Accountant of Auschwitz found fit for prison

Former SS guard Oskar Groening is capable of serving four years in prison for the crimes he committed helping to murder 300,000 Jews.

A 96-year-old former Auschwitz death camp guard who was convicted as an accessory to murder is fit to go to prison, German prosecutors said Wednesday.

His lawyer said he will contest their decision.

Oskar Groening was convicted in July 2015 of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews and sentenced to four years in prison. In November, a federal court rejected his appeal.

Groening was accused of helping to operate the death camp between May and June 1944, when some 425,000 Jews from Hungary were brought there and with at least 300,000 almost immediately gassed to death.

Groening has remained free pending the appeal and a decision on his fitness for prison. On Wednesday, Kathrin Soefker, a spokeswoman for prosecutors in Hannover, told the news agency dpa they have rejected a defense application for a reprieve on serving the sentence.

She said a doctor considers Groening fit to go to prison so long as there is appropriate medical care. There has been no formal summons yet for him to start serving his sentence.

Groening’s lawyer, Hans Holtermann, said he would ask a court in Luneburg to review the decision. If it deems Groening fit to serve time, he added, an appeal to a higher court would be possible.

Holtermann said he doesn’t consider Groening fit to go to prison, and said the doctor hadn’t physically examined his client.

Groening has openly acknowledged serving as an SS non-commissioned officer at Auschwitz, though denies committing any crimes.

Groening said he felt an obligation to talk about his past to confront those who deny the Holocaust.

“I want to tell those deniers that I have seen the crematoria, I have seen the burning pits, and I want to assure you that these atrocities happened,” he said. “I was there.”

Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in 2015 that even low-ranking guards were necessary for Adolf Hitler’s genocidal machine to run.

“The system that the Nazis put in place in order to annihilate the Jewish people and the others they classified as enemies was made up of all sorts of people who fulfilled all sorts of tasks,” Zuroff said. “Obviously Oskar Groening is not as guilty as (SS head) Heinrich Himmler… but he contributed his talents to helping the system carry out mass murder.”

By: AP and World Israel News Staff