Reinhold Hanning, a 94 year-old former Auschwitz guard, was convicted by a court in Detmold, German,y Friday and sentenced to five years in prison for his role in murder of 170,000 people. Hanning served as a guard at Auschwitz from 1942-1944. He joined the Hitler Youth as a young teenager and entered the SS at 18. The four-month trial heard testimony from Hanning, himself, and a number of Holocaust survivors. The defense for Hanning claimed the former SS sergeant [AP report] never personally killed or beat any prisoners. Hanning admitted to serving at Auschwitz and said he was ashamed [JURIST report]. He will remain free during any appeals process. Due to the age of many of those being tried, Hanning’s case is likely to be one of the last trials heard in connection with the Holocaust.
German courts have recently seen an increase of war crime charges against former members of the Nazi party. Prior to 2011, German prosecutors often chose not to charge individuals they regarded as “cogs” in, rather than active members of, the Nazi war machine. The 2011 conviction [JURIST report] of former Nazi guard John Demjanjuk may have emboldened German prosecutors to pursue cases against all those who materially helped Nazi Germany function. In December a German court allowed [JURIST report] the trial of a 95-year-old Auschwitz paramedic accused of being an accessory to the murder of 3,681 people at Auschwitz. The most recent person imprisoned for their role in the Holocaust was Oskar Groening. Known as the “accountant of Auschwitz,” Groening was charged [JURIST report] in September 2014 as an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people. In July Groening was given a four-year jail sentence for his role at Auschwitz, a sentence he said he would appeal [JURIST reports].