A former Auschwitz guard acknowledged Tuesday that he bears a share of the moral guilt for atrocities at the camp, but told judges at the opening of his trial that it is up to them to decide whether he deserves to be convicted as an accessory to murder.
Oskar Groening, 93, acknowledged having helped collect and tally money as part of his job dealing with the belongings stolen from people arriving at Auschwitz. That earned him the moniker “Accountant of Auschwitz.”
Groening testified that he volunteered to join the SS in 1940 after training as a banker, and served at Auschwitz from 1942 to 1944. He didn’t mention directly participating in any atrocities and said he unsuccessfully sought a transfer after witnessing one.
“I share morally in the guilt but whether I am guilty under criminal law, you will have to decide,” Groening told the panel of judges hearing the case as he closed an hour-long statement to the court. Under the German legal system, defendants do not enter formal pleas.
On his way into the court in Lueneburg, south of Hamburg, Groening told reporters he expects an acquittal. He could face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison if found guilty.