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September 22, 2017

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Court in Germany upholds conviction of Auschwitz guard

BERLIN--A German federal court has upheld the conviction for being an accessory to murder of a 95-year-old former SS sergeant who served at the Auschwitz death camp, his lawyer said Monday.

Oskar Groening was convicted in July 2015 of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews and sentenced by a court in Lueneburg to four years in prison. Groening testified at his trial that he oversaw the collection of prisoners' belongings and ensured valuables and cash were separated to be sent to Berlin.

Groening appealed, but defense lawyer Hans Holtermann told news agency dpa that the Federal Court of Justice has now upheld the verdict. The court had no immediate comment.

The decision sets an important precedent for prosecutors' efforts to pursue others who allegedly served at death camps.

It's the first time an appeals court has ruled on a conviction obtained under the logic that simply serving at a death camp, and thus helping it operate, was enough to convict someone as an accessory to the murders committed there even if there was no evidence of involvement in a specific killing.

'Machinery of death'

At the original trial in Lueneburg, presiding Judge Franz Kompisch said Groening was part of the "machinery of death," helping the camp function and also collecting money stolen from the victims to help the Nazi cause.

In 2011, former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk became the first person convicted in Germany solely for serving as a death camp guard without evidence of being involved in a specific killing. Demjanjuk, who always denied serving at the Sobibor camp, died before his appeal could be heard.

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