96-year-old Former Auschwitz Guard Challenges Prison Sentence, Claiming It Violates His 'Right to Life'

Oskar Groening was convicted and sentenced in July 2015 to four years in jail for his role in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews at the concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland

Convicted former SS officer Oskar Groening listening to the verdict of his trial in court in Lueneburg, Germany, July 15, 2015.
Tobias Schwarz / AFP

A 96-year-old former Auschwitz guard has challenged his prison sentence in Germany, arguing that it violates his “right to life.”

Oskar Groening was convicted and sentenced in July 2015 to four years in jail for his role in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews at the concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. A federal appeals court rejected his appeal a year ago. He had remained free while waiting for a determination of his fitness to serve time in prison after requesting that the sentence be suspended.

Last month, a regional appeals court in the northern town of Celle ruled that Groening “is able to serve his term despite his advanced age.” The court said Groening’s needs related to his advanced age could be provided in prison.

On Tuesday, the German media reported that his attorney asked Germany’s constitutional court to determine if serving time in prison would violate Groening’s right to life because of his frail medical health, Reuters reported.

Groening had admitted to being tasked with gathering the money and valuables found in the baggage of murdered Jews and handing it over to his superiors for transfer to Berlin. He said he had guarded luggage on the Auschwitz arrival and selection ramp two or three times in the summer of 1944.

During the trial, Groening asked for forgiveness while acknowledging that only the courts could decide when it came to criminal guilt.

Groening was held in a British prison until 1948. He eventually found work as a payroll clerk in a factory.

The first investigations of Groening took place in 1977, but it was only after the conviction of Sobibor guard John Demjanjuk in 2011 that the courts were emboldened to try camp guards on charges of complicity in murder.