''Bookkeeper of Auschwitz'' Oskar Groening dies before starting sentence

Oskar Groening never saw the inside of a prison cell despite being found guilty of being complicit in the deaths

AP Oskar Groening never saw the inside of a prison cell despite being found guilty of being complicit in the deaths of 300,000 people

Oskar Groening, who died aged 96 on Friday in hospital, was sentenced to four years in prison for his role as an accessory to murder of 300,000 Jews in Auschwitz concentration camp.

The "bookkeeper of Auschwitz", convicted as an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people, has died before starting his jail term.

Groening's lawyer, Hans Holterman, told German public broadcaster NDR, that the former Nazi died last week. Soefker says the office is awaiting an official death certificate.

During his trial, Groening acknowledged "moral guilt" but said it was up to the court to rule on his legal culpability.

Oskar Groening in SS uniform.

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At Groening's original trial in Lueneburg, Germany, Judge Franz Kompisch said Groening was part of the "machinery of death" at the Nazi camp in Auschwitz, Poland, and also stole money from victims, although no evidence was presented that tied him directly to any deaths. Groening himself did not kill murder any people at Auschwitz. A federal appeals court had rejected his appeal a year ago.

He had been expected to enter prison at the end of January, but the continued wrangling over the state of his health kept him from beginning to serve his sentence.

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.

"If you are convinced that the destruction of Judaism is necessary, then it no longer matters how the killing takes place", he said, describing his feelings as a young SS officer. He was first noticed when doing interviews in 2005, admitting his wrongdoings in an attempt to persuade Holocaust deniers to accept the truth, according to Reuters.

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