A 94-year-old man, known to be one of the last Nazis to face trial, has been sentenced to four years in prison for his role as accessory to murder. Oskar Groening, better known as the book-keeper of Auschwitz, was awarded the prison sentence in connection with the genocide of at least 30,0000 Jews.
The house of horrors
Auschwitz is rightly regarded as an unholy relic that reminds Europe and the world at large of one of the darkest phases in history. During the Holocaust, Auschwitz was the camp where maximum people were brutally executed in gas chambers.
Over a period of five years, more than a million people had died at Auschwitz-Birkenau, located in Poland, then occupied by Nazi Germany. Most of the people killed in the ruthless genocide were European Jews, while the rest consisted of Roma Gypsies, homosexuals, political opponents and Soviet prisoners.
Groening was a guard in the camp and his role was to count the belongings of the prisoners and keep records, earning him the alias, ‘the book-keeper’. While he had admitted moral guilt in court, Groening’s lawyers said that he did not actually facilitate the genocide.
The case was surrounded by a debate regarding people who had played minor roles in the genocide, but did not take part in killing Jews.
Groening was one of the few former Nazis to go public about his role at Auschwitz. He later claimed that he had done so in opposition to those who denied the Holocaust altogether. He had told stories of gas chambers and crematoriums, and gave eyewitness accounts of how selections for gas chambers were made on the ramp.
Many are doubtful about Groening ever being sent to prison, citing his old age as the reason.