Auschwitz Guard, 96, Must Serve Prison Sentence, Germany’s Highest Court Rules

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Germany’s highest court has ruled that a 96-year-old former Auschwitz guard should serve his prison sentence for his role in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews at the concentration camp.

Oskar Groening 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.

After a regional appeals court in November ruled that Groening could receive the care he needs due to his advanced age in prison, attorneys for the former Nazi guard challenged his prison sentence to the constitutional court in Germany, arguing that it violates his “right to life.”

The constitutional court, the country’s highest court, on Friday 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 high age of the applicant is in itself not sufficient to refrain from enforcing the criminal penalty,” said the court, AFP reported.

Oskar Groening in SS uniform. File image taken from BBC documentary Auschwitz: the Nazis

The court also noted that the severity of the crime is “something that lends particular weight to the enforcement of the punishment.”

Groening, nicknamed the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” 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.