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'Auschwitz Accountant' to be Tried in Germany

FILE - This undated file image shows the main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz I.

A 93-year-old former Auschwitz death camp guard is expected to go on trial in Germany in April, charged with at least 300,000 counts of accessory to murder.

The Lueneburg state court says the German defendant, Oskar Gröning, is to face charges concerning 425,000 people sent to the camp from May to July 1944, at least 300,000 were killed in crematoriums.

Gröning, then a member of Nazi Waffen-SS, has openly talked about the time he served as a “bookkeeper” at Auschwitz. He was tasked with counting the banknotes found in prisoners’ belongings and passing them to SS authorities in Berlin, according to charges leveled by prosecutors in the northern German city of Hanover. He has admitted to have witnessed atrocities, but has denied to have committed any himself.

Gröning is one of about 30 former Auschwitz personnel the German office investigating Nazi war crimes has recommended prosecuting.

More than 50 Holocaust survivors or relatives of the victims have joined the case as co-plaintiffs and many are expected to attend the trial.

For more than 60 years German courts had only prosecuted as Nazi war criminals the perpetrators who personally committed atrocities. But a landmark court ruling in Munich in 2011 has made possible to bring to justice even those who provided aid in the extermination of Jews.

The court sentenced John Demjanjuk to five years in prison for complicity in the extermination of Jews at the Sobibor camp, where he had served as a prison guard, establishing that all former camp guards can be tried.

As part of Adolf Hitler's genocide plan against European Jews, called the "Final Solution", more than 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz in the occupied Poland between June 1940 and January 1945. About 1.1 million of them, mainly European Jews, perished in the gas chambers or from harsh treatments, starvation and disease. The Nazis killed six million of pre-war Europe's 11 million Jews.

Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.