Ex-Auschwitz guard convicted in one of Germany's last Holocaust trials

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Former Auschwitz guard convicted

DETMOLD, Germany, June 17 (Reuters) - A 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard was convicted on Friday of being an accessory to the murder of at least 170,000 people, at the end of what is likely to be one of Germany's last Holocaust trials.

Reinhold Hanning was sentenced to five years' jail for facilitating the slaughter at the concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

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The nearly four-month long trial included testimony from around a dozen Holocaust survivors, many of them extremely elderly, who detailed their horrific experiences, recalling piles of bodies and the smell of burnt flesh in the death camp.

The defense had said Hanning should be acquitted as the former SS officer had personally never killed, beaten or abused anyone.

Hanning, seated in a wheelchair, remained silent and emotionless for much of the trial, avoiding eye contact with anyone in the courtroom.

He spoke at the end of April, apologizing to the victims and saying that he regretted being part of a "criminal organization" that had killed so many and caused so much suffering.

"I'm ashamed that I knowingly let injustice happen and did nothing to oppose it," he read from a prepared speech.

Hanning was not charged with direct involvement in any killings. But prosecutors and dozens of joint plaintiffs from Germany, Hungary, Israel, Canada, Britain and the United States said he had helped Auschwitz function.

A precedent was set in a similar case in 2011, when camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk was convicted. Last year, Oskar Groening, known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz," was sentenced to four years in prison after he was convicted of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people.

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Auschwitz guard goes on trial, Oskar Groening
Former SS sergent Oskar Groening arrives for the judgement at the trial against him in in Lueneburg, Germany Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Groening, 94, who is accused of helping to operate the death camp Auschwitz between May and June 1944, has been convicted on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. The state court gave Groening a four-year sentence. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Journalists gather outside the courtroom after a verdict in the case of former SS officer Oskar Groening on July 15, 2015 at court in Lueneburg, northern Germany. Oskar Groening, 94, sat impassively as judge Franz Kompisch said 'the defendant is found guilty of accessory to murder in 300,000 legally connected cases' of deported Jews who were sent to the gas chambers in 1944. AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZ (Photo credit should read TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Former SS sergent Oskar Groening arrives for the judgement at the trial against him in in Lueneburg, Germany Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Groening, 94, who is accused of helping to operate the death camp Auschwitz between May and June 1944, has been convicted on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. The state court gave Groening a four-year sentence. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
94-year-old former SS sergeant Oskar Groening looks up as he listens to the verdict of his trial Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at a court in Lueneburg, northern Germany. Groening, who served at the Auschwitz death camp was convicted on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder and given a four-year sentence. (Tobias Schwarz/Pool Photo via AP)
Auschwitz survivor Max Eisen shows a photograph from 1940 that shows him, center, with his parents and brothers, Thursday, April 23, 2015, in a courtroom in Lueneburg, northern Germany. Eisen attends the trial against former SS guard Oskar Groening, 93, who is accused of helping to operate the death camp Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland between May and June 1944, when some 425,000 Jews from Hungary were brought there and at least 300,000 were almost immediately gassed to death. (Julian Stratenschulte/Pool via AP)
With the help of a Red Cross worker, former SS guard Oskar Groening, right, leaves the court after the verdict of his trial in Lueneburg, Germany, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Groening, 94, who served at the Auschwitz death camp was convicted on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder and given a four-year sentence. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
LUNEBURG, GERMANY - JULY 15: Oskar Groening, 94, a former member of the Waffen-SS who worked at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, awaits the verdict in his trial on July 15, 2015 in Lueneburg, Germany. Groening was accused of complicity in the murder of 300,000 mostly Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz in 1944. He worked as an accountant for the SS at Auschwitz and has admitted moral and personal responsibility for his role there. Groening has been convicted of being an accessory to murder, and sentenced to four years in prison. (Photo by Hans-Jurgen Wege - Pool/Getty Images)
94-year-old former SS sergeant Oskar Groening sits between his lawyers Hans Holtermann, right, and Susanne Frangenberg, left, during the verdict of his trial Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at a court in Lueneburg, northern Germany. Groening, who served at the Auschwitz death camp was convicted on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder and given a four-year sentence. (Tobias Schwarz/Pool Photo via AP)
Former prisoner of Auschwitz concentration camp and plaintiff Hedy Bohm , left, and her daughter Vicky Bohm wait in the courtroom for the trial of former German SS officer Oskar Groening in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Wednesday July 8 2015 Groening is charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he helped the Auschwitz Nazi death camp function by sorting cash and valuables seized from Jews. German prosecutors sought a 3½-year prison sentence for the 94-year-old former SS sergeant who served at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, saying his role there made him an accessory to murder. ( Christian Charisius/Pool Photovia AP)
LUNEBURG, GERMANY - JULY 15: The joint plaintiff's lawyers Cornelius Nestler (L) and Thomas Walther (R) await the verdict in the trial of Oskar Groening, 94, a former member of the Waffen-SS who worked at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, on July 15, 2015 in Lueneburg, Germany. Groening was accused of complicity in the murder of 300,000 mostly Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz in 1944. He worked as an accountant for the SS at Auschwitz and has admitted moral and personal responsibility for his role there. Groening has been convicted of being an accessory to murder, and sentenced to four years in prison. (Photo by Hans-Jurgen Wege - Pool/Getty Images)
Former SS officer Oskar Groening waits in a courtroom in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Wednesday July 8, 2015. German prosecutors sought a 3½-year prison sentence for the 94-year-old former SS sergeant who served at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, saying his role there made him an accessory to murder. (Christian Charisius/Pool Photo via AP)
Former prisoner of Auschwitz concentration camp and plaintiff Irene Weiss arrives for the trial of a German former SS officer known as the 'bookkeeper of Auschwitz' on July 1, 2015 at the courtroom at the 'Ritterakademie' venue in Lueneburg, northern Germany. German national Oskar Groening, 94, stands accused of 300,000 counts of 'accessory to murder' in the cases of deported Hungarian Jews sent to the gas chambers between May and July 1944. AFP PHOTO / RONNY HARTMANN (Photo credit should read RONNY HARTMANN/AFP/Getty Images)
Former SS officer Oskar Groening , 94, sits in the courtroom in Lueneburg , northern Germany, Wednesday, July 1., 2015. Groening is charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he helped the Auschwitz nazi death camp function by sorting cash and valuables seized from Jews. (Ronny Hartmann/Pool Photo via AP)
Auschwitz survivor William "Bill" Glied shows photos of his sister Anniko, left, his parents Maria and Alexander, center, and of himself as a six-year-old boy in a courtroom in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Thursday, April 23, 2015. Glied attends the trial against former SS guard Oskar Groening, 93, who is accused of helping to operate the death camp Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland between May and June 1944, when some 425,000 Jews from Hungary were brought there and at least 300,000 were almost immediately gassed to death. (Julian Stratenschulte/Pool via AP)
Former prisoner of Auschwitz concentration camp and plaintiff Hedy Bohm arrives for the trial of a German former SS officer known as the 'bookkeeper of Auschwitz' on July 1, 2015 at the courtroom at the 'Ritterakademie' venue in Lueneburg, northern Germany. German national Oskar Groening, 94, stands accused of 300,000 counts of 'accessory to murder' in the cases of deported Hungarian Jews sent to the gas chambers between May and July 1944. AFP PHOTO / RONNY HARTMANN (Photo credit should read RONNY HARTMANN/AFP/Getty Images)
The joint plaintiff's lawyers Cornelius Nestler (L) and Thomas Walther (R) react during the verdict in the case of convicted former SS officer Oskar Groening on July 15, 2015 at court in Lueneburg, northern Germany. Oskar Groening, 94, sat impassively as judge Franz Kompisch said 'the defendant is found guilty of accessory to murder in 300,000 legally connected cases' of deported Jews who were sent to the gas chambers in 1944. AFP PHOTO / POOL / TOBIAS SCHWARZ (Photo credit should read TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Auschwitz survivor Leon Schwarzbaum shows his tattooed number to the photographer as he waits to enter the court room for the judgment at the trail against former SS guard Oskar Groening in Lueneburg, Germany, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Groening, 94, who served at the Auschwitz death camp was convicted on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder and given a four-year sentence. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Former SS guard Oskar Groening steps out of a car as he arrives at the back entrance of the court hall prior to a trail against him in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. Groening, 93, is accused of helping to operate the death camp Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland between May and June 1944, when some 425,000 Jews from Hungary were brought there and at least 300,000 were almost immediately gassed to death. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Former SS guard Oskar Groening sits in ths sun during the noon break of the trial against him in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. 93-years-old Groening faces 300,000 counts of accessory to murder at the trial, which will test the argument that anyone who served as a guard at a Nazi death camp was complicit in what happened there. Groening said he bears a share of the moral guilt for atrocities at the camp, but told judges it is up to them to decide whether he deserves to be convicted as an accessory to murder. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Auschwitz survivor Eva Pusztai-Fahidi, 2nd from right, from Budapest and her 23-years-old granddaughter Luca Hartai, right, leave the court hall during the noon breaks of the trial against former SS guard Oskar Groening in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. The 93-year-old former Auschwitz guard faces trial on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, in a case that will test the argument that anyone who served at a Nazi death camp was complicit in what happened there. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Auschwitz survivor Eva Pusztai-Fahidi, left, from Budapest and her 23-years-old granddaughter Luca Hartai, right, leave the court hall during the noon breaks of the trial against former SS guard Oskar Groening in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. The 93-year-old former Auschwitz guard faces trial on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, in a case that will test the argument that anyone who served at a Nazi death camp was complicit in what happened there. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Former Nazi death camp officer Oskar Groening sits outside during a break of his trial on April 21, 2015 in Lueneburg, northern Germany. The 93-year-old man dubbed the 'bookkeeper of Auschwitz' is being tried on 'accessory to murder' charges in 300,000 cases of deported Hungarian Jews who were sent to the gas chambers, and faces up to 15 years jail. (Photo by Ronny Hatmann via AFP/Getty Images)
Former SS guard Oskar Groening, left, uses a walking frame as he enters the back entrance of the court hall followed by his lawyer Hans Holtermann, right, for a trail against him in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. The 93-year-old former Auschwitz guard faces trial on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, in a case that will test the argument that anyone who served at a Nazi death camp was complicit in what happened there. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Oskar Groening, 93, and his lawyer Hans Holtermann are seen during the first day of his trial to face charges of being accomplice to the murder of 300,000 people at the Auschwitz concentration camp on April 21, 2015 in Lueneburg, Germany. Groening was an accountant with the Waffen SS and has been open about his role, claiming in interviews with media that he accepts his moral responsibility. Groening has also written an account of his experience, in what he claims is an effort to counter Holocaust revisionists. State prosecutors accuse Groening of accomplice in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews who arrived at Auschwitz in 1944. (Photo by Andreas Tamme - Pool/Getty Images)
Oskar Groening, 93, arrives for the first day of his trial to face charges of being accomplice to the murder of 300,000 people at the Auschwitz concentration camp on April 21, 2015 in Lueneburg, Germany. Groening was an accountant with the Waffen SS and has been open about his role, claiming in interviews with media that he accepts his moral responsibility. Groening has also written an account of his experience, in what he claims is an effort to counter Holocaust revisionists. State prosecutors accuse Groening of accomplice in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews who arrived at Auschwitz in 1944. (Photo by Andreas Tamme - Pool/Getty Images)
Auschwitz survivors Hedy Bohm, right, and Eva Pusztai-Fahidi sit in a court room in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. The 93-year-old former Auschwitz guard Oskar Groening faces trial on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, in a case that will test the argument that anyone who served at a Nazi death camp was complicit in what happened there. (Ronny Hartmann/Pool Photo via AP)
Auschwitz survicor Eva Kor sits in a court room in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. The 93-year-old former Auschwitz guard Oskar Groening faces trial on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, in a case that will test the argument that anyone who served at a Nazi death camp was complicit in what happened there. (Julian Stratenschulte/Pool Photo via AP)
The room is packed with media during a news conference organized by the International Auschwitz Committee on the eve of a trail against former SS guard Oskar Groening in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Monday, April 20, 2015. Groening, today 93, faces a trail on Tuesday, April 21, and is accused of helping to operate the death camp Auschwitz 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. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
A picture taken on April 21, 2015 shows files ahead to a trial of former Nazi death camp officer Oskar Groening at a court in Lueneburg, northern Germany. The 93-year-old man dubbed the 'bookkeeper of Auschwitz' is being tried on 'accessory to murder' charges in 300,000 cases of deported Hungarian Jews who were sent to the gas chambers, and faces up to 15 years jail. Ronny Hartmann via Pool/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken on April 20, 2015 shows a general view of the 'Ritterakademie' venue in Lueneburg, northern Germany. The 'Ritterakademie' is the venue of the trial against former SS guard Oskar Groening, that will start on April 21, 2015. For seven decades Oskar Groening has been haunted by memories of serving in Auschwitz, while denying ultimate responsibility for the mass murder at the Nazi death camp. From April 21, 2015, the 93-year-old faces the Lueneburg court that will decide on his guilt. (Photo by Ronny Hartmann via Pool/AFP/Getty Images)
Auschwitz survivors Hedy Bohm, from Toronto, Canada, from left, and Eva Pusztai-Fahidi from Budapest, Hungary, and the Exicutive Vice President of the International Auschwitz Committee Christoph Heubner attend a news conference organized by the International Auschwitz Committee on the eve of a trail against former SS guard Oskar Groening in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Monday, April 20, 2015. Groening, today 93, faces a trail on Tuesday, April 21, and is accused of helping to operate the death camp Auschwitz between May and June 1944, when some 425,000 Jews from Hungary were brought there and at least 300,000 were almost immediately gassed to death. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Defendant Oskar Groening sits in the dock of the court in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. The 93-year-old former Auschwitz guard faces trial on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, in a case that will test the argument that anyone who served at a Nazi death camp was complicit in what happened there. (Julian Stratenschulte/Pool Photo via AP)
German neo-Nazi Thomas Wulff (C) is surrounded by police as he stands in front of the venue of the trial against a former Nazi death camp officer on April 21, 2015 in Lueneburg, northern Germany. 93-year-old Oskar Groening dubbed the 'bookkeeper of Auschwitz' is being tried on 'accessory to murder' charges in 300,000 cases of deported Hungarian Jews who were sent to the gas chambers, and faces up to 15 years jail. (Photo by Ronny Hartmann via Pool/Getty Images)
People walk through a street of the old town of Lueneburg, northern Germany, on April 20, 2015. A trial will start in Lueneburg on April 21, 2015 against former SS guard Oskar Groening. For seven decades Oskar Groening has been haunted by memories of serving in Auschwitz, while denying ultimate responsibility for the mass murder at the Nazi death camp. From April 21, 2015, the 93-year-old faces the Lueneburg court that will decide on his guilt. (Photo by Ronny Hartmann via Pool/AFP/Getty Images)
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None of the convictions are definitive. Demjanjuk had appealed but died before the German Federal Court of Justice ruled on the case, and the court is still considering an appeal filed by Groening.

Both sides in Hanning's case have a week to appeal Friday's verdict. The defense had asked for a six-year sentence.

Germany is holding what are likely to be its last trials linked to the Holocaust, in which the Nazis killed more than six million people, mostly Jews.

Besides Hanning, one other man and one woman in their 90s are accused of being accessories to the mass murder at Auschwitz. A third man who was a member of the Nazi SS guard team at Auschwitz died at the age of 93 in April, days before his trial was due to start.


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