State prosecutors in Germany are charging Oskar Groening with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for serving as a guard at Auschwitz.
93-year-old Groening has talked frankly about working as a Nazi guard at Auschwitz, saying that he witnessed terrible events but denies committing any crimes himself.
In 2005, he told Der Spiegel magazine about one incident on "ramp duty" when he heard a baby crying. "I saw another SS soldier grab the baby by the legs..." he said. "He smashed the baby's head against the iron side of a truck until it was silent."
Lawyers in Hanover said in a statement that he was part of the machinery of destruction during his time at the death camp in 1944. Groening is charged with helping collect and tally money stolen from inmates who were killed, according to an AP report.
He "helped the Nazi regime benefit economically, and supported the systematic killings," said a prosecutor.
It's also claimed that Groening assisted in removing the luggage of victims so that it was not seen by new arrivals, so they had no idea of what was to happen to them. "Traces of the mass killing of concentration camp prisoners were thereby supposed to be covered for subsequent inmates."
Among other allegations include Groening being aware that the prisoners deemed unfit to work "were murdered directly after their arrival in the gas chambers of Auschwitz."
Groening was arrested in March during a hunt for Nazi camp guards, which followed the 2011 Munich trial of John Demjanjuk, a Nazi war criminal charged of assisting in the murder of 28,060 people at the Sobibor death camp. The Nazi guard was sentenced to five years and died in 2012.
The Demjanjuk ruling changed the statute of limitations in which Germany could only prosecute Nazi war criminals if witness testimony showed they personally committed atrocities. As a result of this ruling, all former Nazi camp guards can be tried for their part in the genocidal mass murder – even if they weren't directly involved in the murders.
At Auschwitz around one million Jews were murdered, part of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. Oskar Groening is accused of helping operate Auschwitz in occupied Poland between May and June 1944, when 425,000 Jews from Hungary were brought there and at least 300,000 were gassed to death.
Thomas Walther, who represents 20 Auschwitz victims and their families as co-plaintiffs in the case against Groening as allowed under German law, said it's their last chance "to participate in bringing justice to one of the SS men who had a part in the murder of their closest relatives."
"Many of the co-plaintiffs are among the last survivors of Auschwitz," he told AP.
According to AFP, a regional court now needs to decide whether Groening will go on trial. Groening's attorney, Hans Holtermann, declined to comment on the charges.