Germany: defense seeks acquittal of former Auschwitz guard

BERLIN (AP) — A defense lawyer called Saturday for the acquittal of a 94-year-old former Auschwitz death camp guard being tried in Germany as an accessory to murder.

In closing arguments at the Detmold state court in western Germany, attorney Johannes Salmen said the trial has produced no evidence that defendant Reinhold Hanning was directly involved in specific crimes, news agency dpa reported.

He said Hanning never killed or beat anyone, or helped others do so, and that he was never in the part of the camp where the gas chambers were located.

Prosecutors are seeking a six-year-prison sentence. They argue that Hanning is guilty of being an accessory to murder in at least 100,000 cases because, as a guard, he helped the death camp function.

Hanning in April admitted serving as an Auschwitz guard. He said he was ashamed that, although he was aware Jews were being gassed and their corpses burned, he did nothing to try to stop it.

Salmen pointed to Hanning’s youth when he joined the SS, at 18, arguing that as a worker who didn’t graduate from school he couldn’t appreciate the consequences of his actions. “One cannot act today as if the defendant was a fully fledged man back then who knew what he was doing,” he said.

Hanning did not take the opportunity to make a closing statement himself. A verdict is expected on Friday.

In 2011, former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk became the first person convicted in Germany solely for serving as a death camp guard, with no evidence of involvement in a specific killing. Demjanjuk always denied serving at the Sobibor camp and died before his appeal could be heard.

Prosecutors last year secured the conviction of SS sergeant Oskar Groening, who served at Auschwitz, on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder using the same reasoning.

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