Defense seeks acquittal for former Auschwitz guard, 94

AP News
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Posted: Jul 14, 2015 10:48 AM
Defense seeks acquittal for former Auschwitz guard, 94

BERLIN (AP) — A lawyer for a 94-year-old former SS sergeant who served at the Auschwitz death camp urged a German court Tuesday to acquit his client of charges that he was an accessory to murder.

Defendant Oskar Groening has testified that he guarded prisoners' baggage after they arrived at Auschwitz and collected money stolen from them. Prosecutors say that amounts to helping the death camp function.

Defense lawyer Hans Holtermann, however, said in his closing arguments that as far as the law is concerned Groening did not facilitate mass murder, news agency dpa reported.

The state court in Lueneburg, in northern Germany, plans to issue its verdict on Wednesday.

Groening said when his trial opened in April that he bears a share of the moral guilt for atrocities at the camp but that it was up to judges to determine whether he is guilty under criminal law.

Oskar Groening is being tried on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, related to a period between May and July 1944 when hundreds of thousands Jews from Hungary were brought to the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in Nazi-occupied Poland. Most were immediately gassed to death.

If convicted, Groening could get from three to 15 years in prison. Prosecutors have asked for 3 ½ years, but recommended that 14 to 22 months be deducted from his sentence because it took so long to bring him to trial. Groening was previously investigated in the 1970s but authorities then shelved the case.

Another defense lawyer, Susanne Frangenberg, called for Groening not to be punished if he is convicted. She pointed to the delay in bringing him to trial and to his openness about his past, which is unusual for trials of former Nazi camp guards.