Convicted Auschwitz guard, 96, files clemency plea

Oskar Groening at the first day of his trial in Luneberg, Germany, to face charges of being an accomplice to the murder of 300,000 at Auschwitz, April 21, 2015. (Andreas Tamme/Getty Images)

Oskar Groening at the first day of his trial in Luneberg, Germany, to face charges of being an accomplice to the murder of 300,000 at Auschwitz, April 21, 2015. (Andreas Tamme/Getty Images)

(JTA) – A 96-year-old former Auschwitz guard ordered by Germany’s highest court to serve his prison sentence for his role in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews at the concentration camp has filed a plea for clemency.

Oskar Groening’s clemency plea was announced Monday by the justice ministry in the northern state of Lower Saxony, where his 2015 trial took place, Reuters reported. The request has been passed on to prosecutors, according to a justice ministry spokesman.

Groening, known as the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” was convicted and sentenced in July 2015 to four years in jail for his role in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews at the concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. A federal appeals court rejected his appeal a year ago. He had remained free while waiting for a determination of his fitness to serve time in prison after requesting that the sentence be suspended.

Germany’s constitutional court, the country’s highest court, last month rejected Groening’s appeal, ruling that he could receive appropriate health care in prison, and that his jail sentence could be “interrupted” should there be a change in the nonagenarian’s health.

The filing of a clemency plea should not delay Groening’s entrance into prison.

Groening had admitted to being tasked with gathering the money and valuables found in the baggage of murdered Jews and handing it over to his superiors for transfer to Berlin. He said he had guarded luggage on the Auschwitz arrival and selection ramp two or three times in the summer of 1944.

During the trial, Groening asked for forgiveness while acknowledging that only the courts could decide when it came to criminal guilt.

Groening was held in a British prison until 1948. He eventually found work as a payroll clerk in a factory.

The first investigations of Groening took place in 1977, but it was only after the conviction of Sobibor guard John Demjanjuk in 2011 that the courts were emboldened to try camp guards on charges of complicity in murder.

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