Reinhold Hanning, convicted in 2016 of being an accessory to 170,000 murders at the Nazis' Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was an SS guard, has died aged 95 in Germany.

Hanning was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the Holocaust during the Second World War after his case was picked up by German prosecutors some seven decades since the crimes were committed.

But Hanning died on 30 May before ever reaching a prison while he waited for his appeal against the sentence to be heard by a German court. His death was confirmed to Associated Press by his lawyer. He died in hospital having been rushed in for an emergency, reported the German newspaper Bild, but the cause of death is not yet known.

He first arrived at Auschwitz in 1942 aged 20 and soon discovered what was happening at the camp, where he described during his trial seeing the victims, most of them Jewish, being "shot, gassed and burned". Hanning's trial also heard harrowing testimony from survivors of Auschwitz, where almost a million Jews and thousands of other prisoners were murdered by the Nazis.

"I want to say that it disturbs me deeply that I was part of such a criminal organisation," Hanning told the court. "I am ashamed that I saw injustice and never did anything about it and I apologise for my actions. I am very, very sorry."

Hanning joined the Hitler Youth with his school class in 1935 at age 13, then volunteered at 18 for the Waffen SS after being encouraged to do so by his stepmother, reported Associated Press.

He was injured during the war when he was hit in the head and leg by shrapnel from a grenade while fighting in Kiev in 1941. Once recovered, he was sent away from the frontlines and to Auschwitz as a guard instead.

Hanning's trial is one of the last linked to the Holocaust. In 2015, Oskar Groening, also known as the "the book-keeper of Auschwitz", was jailed for four years for being an accomplice to the murder of 300,000 prisoners, mainly Hungarian Jews, at the Nazi camp.

Auschwitz trial
From left: The entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp, Reinhold Hanning Getty Images