BERLIN — German prosecutors on Tuesday sought a 3.5-year prison sentence for a 94-year-old former SS sergeant who served at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, saying his role there made him an accessory to murder.
Oskar Groening has admitted guarding prisoners’ baggage after they were unloaded from cattle cars onto the camp’s ramps, and collecting and counting money stolen from the new arrivals and sending it to Berlin.
Prosecutors told the Lueneburg state court in their closing arguments that his role helped the camp function, and he should be convicted of 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for those killed while he was there.
If convicted, the possible punishment ranges between 3 and 15 years in prison.
Court spokeswoman Frauke Albers said that because Groening was previously investigated in the 1970s but authorities then shelved the case, prosecutors also recommended that he have between 14 and 22 months deducted from his sentence because he wasn’t granted a speedy trial.
Unusually for trials of former Nazi camp guards, Groening has been open about his past throughout the proceedings.
When the trial began in April, Groening said he felt moral guilt but it was up to the court to decide if he was legally guilty of a crime.
Dozens of Auschwitz survivors joined the trial as co-plaintiffs, as allowed under German law, and many of them testified about their own experiences in the death camp.
Last week, Groening told the court in a statement read by his attorney that even though he had known what was going on at Auschwitz, the personal stories of the co-plaintiffs during the trial had brought home the enormity of the atrocities.
“I can only ask my God for forgiveness,” he said.
A verdict is expected this month, but has not yet been scheduled, Albers said.