Former Auschwitz guard on trial asks for forgiveness
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Former Auschwitz guard on trial asks for forgiveness

Oskar Groening Auschwitz trial

Oskar Groening at the first day of his trial in Luneberg, Germany, to face charges of being an accomplice to the murder of 300,000 at Auschwitz, April 21, 2015. (Andreas Tamme/Getty Images)

BERLIN (JTA) — Former Auschwitz guard Oskar Groening, on trial for his role in the murder of 300,000 people in the concentration camp, asked for forgiveness.

Groening, 93, told the District Court of Luneburg on Tuesday, the first day of the trial, that “for me there is no question that I made myself morally complicit.”

The former Waffen-SS member told the court that he learned about the gas chambers as soon as he reported for duty at Auschwitz in 1942, the German news agency dpa reported. He admitted to gathering the money and valuables found in the baggage of murdered Jews and handing it over to the SS — something he has publicly discussed in interviews over the years.

“I beg for forgiveness,” he said in court, according to news reports. “When it comes to the question of criminal guilt, you must decide.”

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

The charges relate specifically to the murder of at least 300,000 Hungarian Jews in the summer of 1944. Plaintiffs in the case against him include the state as well as more than 60 Holocaust survivors and their relatives.

Groening is one of several former concentration camp guards summoned to stand trial in the past year.