Oskar Gröning

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 07.06.2016 )
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Oskar Gröning was born in 1921 in Germany. In 1940, he joined the SS, a military organisation under the Nazi Party, as a volunteer.

In October 1942, Gröning was reassigned from his role in the paymaster’s office to a role in “Inmate Money Administration” at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Known as the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, Gröning’s duties included confiscating money and other valuables from prisoners before sending these items to the main administrative office of the SS headquarters in Berlin, Germany.

It is, however, alleged that in addition to this confiscation of materials, Gröning further destroyed other belongings of prisoners so that new arrivals would not see them. Through these actions, it is alleged that Gröning enabled the Nazi regime to gain economically and carry out further atrocities.

Moreover, it is alleged that Gröning, through his additional duties guarding the possessions of recent arrivals, was aware that many of the arrivals were murdered almost immediately upon arrival if deemed unfit to work. It is thus further alleged that through this acquiescence of events that occurred at Auschwitz, Gröning was complicit in the genocide.

On 15 September 2014, for his role working for the Nazi regime, Gröning was charged with 300’000 counts of accessory to murder by the federal prosecution in Hanover, Germany.

legal procedure

On 15 September 2014, for his role working for the Nazi regime, Gröning was charged with 300’000 counts of accessory to murder by the federal prosecution in Hanover, Germany. The 300’000 counts relate to the number of people that allegedly died in the gas chambers between May and July 1942.

While Gröning does not deny the occurrence of gross acts of violence at Auschwitz, he maintains that he never actively participated.

The decision to charge Gröning came after a ruling that changed the statute of limitations in which Germany could only prosecute Nazi war criminals if they had personally committed atrocities. As a result of this ruling however, direct involvement is no longer a prerequisite and as such Gröning is charged for having served as a guard at Auschwitz.

Gröning’s charges only relate to two months of his service at Auschwitz for legal and evidence reasons. Gröning has been charged with aiding and abetting in at least 300’000 deaths that occurred in the gas chambers following the arrival of over 425’000 people from Hungary between 16 May 1942 and 11 July 1942.

Having been found fit to stand trial, Gröning’s trial started on 20 April 2015 before the Court of Lueneburg, in northern Germany.

On the second day of the proceedings, Gröning admitted in his opening statement that he shared the burden of moral guilt for his role at Auschwitz, but left it to the judges to determine whether his actions were sufficient for him to be convicted as an accessory to murder.

Gröning was sentenced on 15 July 2015 by the Lunebourg tribunal to four years’ imprisonment for his complicity in the murder of 300’000 Jews.

The Lunebourg tribunal’s sentence was longer than the three and a half years’ imprisonment requested by the prosecutor on 7 July 2015, yet still less than the three to 15 years of imprisonment that the accused could have otherwise faced.


After the Second World War numerous trials against war criminals and those responsible for Nazi crimes took place in Germany and other countries. It is not possible here to give an overview of all the trials. Below are the main facts concerning the major trials of war criminals at Nuremberg.


The German armed forces surrendered unconditionally on 7-8 May 1945. The Allies (USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France) took over all governmental functions in Germany, instituted the Allied Control Council and divided Germany into four zones of occupation.

After the adoption of the London Charter of 8 August 1945, the Allies set up the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in order to judge the major German war criminals. Annex III of the Agreement contains the Statute of the International Military Tribunal (IMT Statute [2]).


According to Articles 1-3 of the London Charter, war criminals with offenses having no particular geographical location were to be judged by the IMT. However in accordance with Articles 4 and 6 of the Convention, the principle of territoriality was to apply to the other German war criminals, with the courts of those states where crimes had been committed having the competence to try these criminals on the basis on their national laws.

Crimes within the jurisdiction of IMT:

– Crimes against peace;

– War crimes and

– Crimes against humanity (Article 6 of IMT Statute).

The IMT was composed of four judges and four substitutes who were appointed by the four Allied powers (Article 2 IMT Statute). In application of Article 13 of the IMT Statute, the Tribunal drew up its own Rules of Procedure

The IMT indicted 24 people in total. The trials took place from 14 November 1945 until 1 October 1946. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. In one case, the procedure was suspended for health reasons and in another the defendant committed suicide before his trial.

Fact Sheet
Name: Oskar Gröning
Nationality: Germany
Context: Nazi Germany
Charges: Crimes against humanity, Deprivation of life, Infringment of physical integrity, Other persecutions and apartheid, Genocide
Status: Sentenced
Judgement Place: Germany
Particulars: Charged with 300’000 counts of accessory to murder for his role as a prison guard at Auschwitz concentration camp; trial started on 20 April 2015 before the Court of Luneburg, Germany; sentenced on 15 July 2015 to four years of imprisonment for his complicity in the murder of 300’000 Jews.