Ex-Auschwitz guard, 95, dies before conviction binding


BERLIN, June 1 (Reuters) - A 95-year-old former Auschwitz guard, who was sentenced to jail in Germany last year for being an accessory to murder of at least 170,000 people, has died before his conviction became legally binding, his lawyer said on Thursday.

In what is likely to be one of Germany's last trials for World War Two-era atrocities, Reinhold Hanning was convicted last June by a judge who branded him a "willing and efficient henchman" in the Holocaust.

His lawyer, Andreas Scharmer, said he had found out about Hanning's death on Tuesday evening, but declined to comment on the cause of death beyond pointing to the man's advanced age.

Scharmer said the verdict against Hanning is not legally binding as appeals were still pending at Germany's highest court.

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Survivors pay homage to Auschwitz victims on Holocaust Remembrance Day
Survivors walk in the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2017, to mark the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust. Agency Gazeta/Kuba Ociepa/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The Nazi slogan "Arbeit macht frei" (Work sets you free) is pictured at the gates of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2017, to mark the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust. Agency Gazeta/Kuba Ociepa/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND
Survivors walk in the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2017, to mark the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust. Agency Gazeta/Kuba Ociepa/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND
Survivor stands in front of the "death wall" in the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2017, to mark the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust. Agency Gazeta/Kuba Ociepa/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND
Survivor places flowers at the "death wall" in the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2017, to mark the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust. Agency Gazeta/Kuba Ociepa/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND
Survivors walk in the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2017, to mark the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust. Agency Gazeta/Kuba Ociepa/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND
Survivors walk in the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2017, to mark the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust. Agency Gazeta/Kuba Ociepa/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND
Survivors stand before laying a wreath in front of the "death wall" in the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2017, to mark the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the camp by Soviet troops and to remember the victims of the Holocaust. Agency Gazeta/Kuba Ociepa/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. POLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN POLAND
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Thomas Walther, a lawyer for more than 20 joint plaintiffs in the Hanning case, said he was disappointed that Hanning had died before the conviction was binding, especially as he had expected the higher court to rule in the next month or so.

"If the judiciary had not been silent for decades, then there would not have been this disappointment," he said, adding he had expected the conviction to be confirmed.

A precedent was set in a similar case in 2011, when camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk was convicted, but he also died before the German Federal Court of Justice could rule on his appeal.

However, Germany's highest court last November rejected an appeal by Oskar Groening, known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz," to his conviction for being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people.

Hanning was silent and emotionless for much of his trial but at one point he did apologize to the victims and said that he regretted being part of a "criminal organization" that had killed so many and caused so much suffering.

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.


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