Few of the people who survived Nazi concentration camps, or worked to facilitate them, are still alive.
But the trial of Oskar Groening, a 94-year-old former guard at Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the most notorious of the death camps in Poland where more than a million people died, brought several of the living together. Several Holocaust survivors, including Susan Pollock and Ivor Perl, who were both taken to the camp as children, testified against him.
Groening was convicted today on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, and sentenced to four years in prison by a court in Lueneburg, in northern Germany. At his trial, he testified that he guarded baggage and collected money taken from prisoners.
For years, Groening has been open about the role he played in the deaths at Auschwitz. In 2005, he told the BBC: “I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria. I saw the open fires. I was on the ramp when the selections [for the gas chambers] took place. I would like you to believe these atrocities happened—because I was there.”
In 2011, trials such as Groening’s were made possible by a change to German law, which allowed for functionaries as well as senior leadership figures to be tried for war crimes. Since trials began in the 1940s, around 925 people have been tried over the genocide, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.