Most likely, Oskar Groening is now the most notorious 94-year-old man in existence. Groening, known to most as the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz” was sentenced to four years in prison for his own role in what ended up being the murder of 300,000 people at the Auschwitz concentration camp on Wednesday, of which he was found guilty for.
According to those present at his sentencing, the former Auschwitz guard sat displaying very little emotion with his arms crossed as the judge explained the verdict. When the hearing was over, he shuffled out of the courtroom while he waits to find out how much of his jail time he will actually serve.
Born in 1921 in Lower Saxony, Groening eventually became an SS-Unterscharfuhrer stationed at Auschwitz concentration camp. For his duration of employment there, he was responsible for counting and sorting the money taken from prisoners as well as their belongs. After working at Auschwitz, Groening was actually send to a combat unit in 1944, only to be captured and kept as a prisoner of war by the British in June of 1945 where he worked as a forced labourer until the he was able to return to Germany.
His case may be the last Holocaust case that will be successfully tried. And his trial points to the question of whether or not people who were considered minor participants in relation to the murder of millions of people under the Nazi regime were guilty of these crimes. However as Judge Franz Kompisch pointed out during the trial, “Mr. Groening is not a monster. You chose the safe desk job. What you consider to be moral guilt and what you depict as being a cog in the wheel is exactly what lawmakers view as being an accessory to murder.”
For now, if Groening decides not to appeal the verdict, the verdict will take legal effect and then prosecutors will decide when, whether and where Groening will be jailed.
Many are keen on the idea of continuing to try as many people involved in the Holocaust as possible, while others find it distasteful to pursue old men for crimes committed more than seventy years ago. However, I think both are correct, I do not think that Mr. Groening should actually be jailed at his age. His feeling of moral guilt and his efforts over the past years to debunk the ideas of Holocaust deniers have shown that he may have lived a physically free life, but he probably has not lived a free and happy life. That being said, the guilty verdict is needed, not only does it set precedence for future trials concerning mass murders of populations, but it also shows that the world will not tolerate people accepting being part of the machine and hopefully encourage people to do incredible things to save their fellow human beings.