Oskar Gröning; born 10 June 1921 in Nienburg, was a German SS junior squad leader who was stationed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. His responsibilities included counting and sorting the money taken from prisoners, and he was in charge of the personal property of arriving prisoners. On a few occasions he witnessed the procedures of mass killing in the camp. After being transferred from Auschwitz to a combat unit in October 1944, Gröning was captured by the British on 10 June 1945 when his unit surrendered. He was eventually transferred to Britain as a prisoner of war and worked as a forced labourer.
His bureaucratic job did not shield him completely from physical acts of the extermination process: as early as his first day, Gröning saw children hidden on the train and people unable to walk that had remained among the rubbish and debris after the selection process had been completed, being shot.138 Gröning also heard:
…a baby crying. The child was lying on the ramp, wrapped in rags. A mother had left it behind, perhaps because she knew that women with infants were sent to the gas chambers immediately. I saw another SS soldier grab the baby by the legs. The crying had bothered him. He smashed the baby’s head against the iron side of a truck until it was silent
Upon his return to Germany he led a normal life, reluctant to talk about his time in Auschwitz. However, more than 40 years later, he decided to make his activities at Auschwitz public after learning about Holocaust denial. He openly criticized those who denied the events that he had witnessed, and the ideology to which he had subscribed. The recorded accounts he provided to the BBC, however, contributed to the decision and ability to prosecute him. His record as an activist against Holocaust deniers since 1985 was not taken into consideration. Gröning was notable as a German willing to make public statements about his experience as an SS soldier, which were self-incriminating and which exposed his life to public scrutiny.
In September 2014, Gröning was charged by German prosecutors as an accessory to murder, in 300,000 cases, for his role at the Auschwitz concentration camp. His trial began in April 2015, after the court had ruled that, at the age of 93, he was still fit to stand trial. The trial was held in Lüneburg, Germany. On 15 July 2015, he was found guilty of facilitating mass murder and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. Following a number of unsuccessful appeals against the prison sentence, Gröning died on 9 March 2018, old age 96, while hospitalized before he had begun his sentence