Germany charged a former Nazi guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder on Monday, 70 years after the killings took place. Oskar Groening, who is now 93 years old, has spoken publicly about his time as an SS officer at the death camp in occupied Poland in the summer of 1944, where at least 300,000 Jews were gassed to death. Groening maintains he did not kill anyone as part of his job at the camp, which the Associated Press reports, was “dealing with the belongings stolen from camp victims, prosecutors said among other things he was charged with helping collect and tally money that was found.”
Here’s more on how the charges came to be, 70 years after the fact*, via NBC News:
Groening, who reportedly is in good health and who has been questioned, is one of about 30 former Auschwitz guards who German federal prosecutors started investigating last year. That move followed the successful prosecution of former U.S. autoworker John Demjanjuk, who was convicted in 2011 of 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder. Earlier this year, Nazi hunters presented their recommendations to authorities in Hannover, who launched a formal investigation.
In a 2005 interview with Der Spiegel, Groening had this to say about whether or not he was guilty of a crime:
Are you guilty?
Oskar Gröning looks at the videotape lying on the table in front of him. He ponders the question for a long time. It’s important to him to find the right words. Then he says: “Guilt really has to do with actions, and because I believe that I was not an active perpetrator, I don’t believe that I am guilty.”
If you weren’t a perpetrator, what were you? An accomplice?
“I don’t know. I avoid the question; it gets me in trouble. Accomplice would almost be too much for me. I would describe my role as a ‘small cog in the gears.’ If you can describe that as guilt, then I am guilty, but not voluntarily. Legally speaking, I am innocent.”
*Correction, Sept. 16, 2014: This article originally misstated that the charges against Oskar Groening came 50 years after the Auschwitz killings. The charges were filed 70 years afterward.