93-year-old former Auschwitz guard charged

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93-year-old former Auschwitz guard charged
FILE - This undated file image shows the main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz I, near Oswiecim , Poland, which was liberated by the Russians in January 1945. Writing at the gate reads: "Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes free - or work liberates). German prosecutors say they’ve charged a 93-year-old man with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for serving as a guard at the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp. The charges against Oskar Groening come as part of a nationwide push against former Auschwitz guards launched last year. Unlike most of the others, Groening has openly talked about his time as a guard and says while he witnessed horrific atrocities, he did not commit any crimes himself. But Hannover prosecutors said in a statement Monday Sept. 15, 2014 he was a cog in the machinery of destruction during his time at Auschwitz in 1944, noting that he helped collect and tally money stolen from murdered inmates. (AP Photo/File)
POLAND - MAY 25: Barbed wire fence and guard tower at Auschwitz concentration camp (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1979), Poland. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
POLAND - MAY 25: Barbed wire fence around Auschwitz concentration camp (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1979), Poland. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
POLAND - MAY 25: Barbed wire fence of Auschwitz concentration camp (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1979), Poland. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
POLAND - MAY 25: Barbed wire fence and guard tower at Auschwitz concentration camp (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1979), Poland. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: Life barbed wire encloses the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on April 15, 2014 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: Bunk beds in Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on December 17, 2009 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: General view on the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on April 15, 2014 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: General view on the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on April 15, 2014 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: Bunk beds in Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on December 17, 2009 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: General view on the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on April 15, 2014 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: General view on the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on April 15, 2014 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: Barbed wire encloses the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on April 15, 2014 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: General view on the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on April 15, 2014 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: General view on the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on April 15, 2014 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: General view on the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on April 15, 2014 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: Bunk beds in Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on December 17, 2009 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: Bunk beds in Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on December 17, 2009 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
BRZEZINKA, POLAND - APRIL 15: Life barbed wire encloses the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp on April 15, 2014 in Brzezinka, Poland. Auschwitz was a network of concentration camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, designated by Heinrich Himmler, Germany's Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the 'final solution of the Jewish question in Europe'. 1.1 million people mostly Jews from allover Europe were killed in gas chambers or from systematic starvation, forced labor, disease and purported 'medical experiments'. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/isifa/Getty Images)
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By DAVID RISING

BERLIN (AP) - A 93-year-old man has been charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for serving as an SS guard at the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp, prosecutors said Monday.

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

In his job dealing with the belongings stolen from camp victims, prosecutors said among other things he was charged with helping collect and tally money that was found.

"He helped the Nazi regime benefit economically, and supported the systematic killings," state prosecutors in the city of Hannover said in a statement.

Groening's attorney, Hans Holtermann, declined to comment on the charges.

Groening himself has openly talked about his time as a guard and said while he witnessed horrific atrocities, he didn't commit any crimes himself.

In 2005, he told Der Spiegel magazine he recalled one incident on "ramp duty" when he heard a baby crying. "I saw another SS soldier grab the baby by the legs..." he said. "He smashed the baby's head against the iron side of a truck until it was silent."

Groening, who lives in the Hannover area, is one of some 30 former Auschwitz guards who federal investigators recommended last year that state prosecutors pursue charges against under a new precedent in German law.

Groening is the fourth case investigated by Hannover - two have been shelved because the suspects have been deemed unfit for trial, and one was closed when the suspect died.

Holtermann said, however, his client is in good health.

Thomas Walther, who represents 20 Auschwitz victims and their families as co-plaintiffs in the case against Groening as allowed under German law, said it's their last chance "to participate in bringing justice to one of the SS men who had a part in the murder of their closest relatives."

"Many of the co-plaintiffs are among the last survivors of Auschwitz," he told The Associated Press.


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