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Ex-Auschwitz Guard Oskar Groening Accused of Role in 300K Deaths

MAINZ, Germany -- A 93-year-old German has been charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for serving as a Nazi SS guard at Adolf Hitler’s Auschwitz death camp, prosecutors announced Monday. Oskar Groening is suspected of aiding the Nazis' killing machine at the notorious concentration camp between May and July 1944, when some 425,000 Jews from Hungary were deported to Auschwitz and at least 300,000 were almost immediately murdered. Groening, who reportedly is in good health and who has been questioned, is one of about 30 former Auschwitz guards who German federal prosecutors started investigating last year. That move followed the successful prosecution of former U.S. autoworker John Demjanjuk, who was convicted in 2011 of 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder.

Earlier this year, Nazi hunters presented their recommendations to authorities in Hannover, who launched a formal investigation. “This case triggered intensive and historic research in the archives,” Hannover prosecutor Kathrin Soefker told NBC News. Groening is not in custody. In 2005, Groening was interviewed by Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine and said that he had witnessed horrific atrocities, but did not commit any crimes himself. “Accomplice would almost be too much for me," he said. "I would describe my role as a 'small cog in the gears.' If you can describe that as guilt, then I am guilty, but not voluntarily. Legally speaking, I am innocent." Judges in the northern city of Lueneburg will now decide whether a court case will be opened and if and when a trial could start.

IN-DEPTH

- Andy Eckardt