A man known as the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz” has died at the age of 96 – shortly before he was due to begin a four-year prison sentence.
Oskar Groening was convicted in 2015 of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews at the Nazi concentration camp in occupied Poland during the Second World War.
German prosecutor Kathrin Soefker said he died in hospital on Friday.
The former SS guard said during his trial that he oversaw the collection of belongings from those killed at Auschwitz or used as slave labour.
He then ensured that valuables and cash were separated to be sent to Berlin.
There were several occasions when he was assigned to “ramp duty”, which involved processing new arrivals.
But while he admitted witnessing individual atrocities, he did not acknowledge participating in any crimes.
He acknowledged “moral guilt” and said he was “very sorry” for his actions.
“No one should have taken part in Auschwitz,” he said.
“I know that. I sincerely regret not having lived up to this realisation earlier and more consistently.”
Of the camp’s 6,500 SS personnel who survived the war, fewer than 50 were convicted.
Groening was pursued through the courts following a landmark case that allowed prosecution for aiding and abetting the Nazis.
His case followed the conviction of former concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk, who was sentenced because he had served at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland – rather than for crimes he was known to have committed.
A court doctor had decided that Groening was able to serve his sentence, providing he was given appropriate nursing and medical care.
Germany’s constitutional court rejected an argument in late December that imprisonment at such an advanced age would violate his “right to life”.
In a last-ditch bid to avoid jail, a formal “request for mercy” was filed in January.
German news magazine Der Spiegel said there had been no formal response at the time of Groening’s death.