There were at least 8,502 individuals who facilitated the murders at Auschwitz. Only one-tenth of them were ever convicted of a crime.

Oskar Gronig as a young man in 1944

Oskar Gröning at age 21. He used his training as a bank teller to sustain the Nazi war effort.

Oskar Groenig as an old man in 2015

Oskar Gröning at age 93, during a break in his trial in 2015. He never served time in jail.

The last convicted SS perpetrator of Auschwitz was the so-called accountant of death, Hans Gröning, who was sentenced in Lüneburg to four years in prison in 2015 just prior to his 94th birthday. Although he never rose above the rank of corporal, this so-called backroom bookkeeper kept track of the acquisition and redistribution of monetary funds stolen from Auschwitz victims, most of whom were murdered. He had trained in civilian life as a bank teller.

According to the New York Times in 2018, Gröning “inspected people’s luggage, removing and counting any bank notes that were inside and sending them on to SS offices in Berlin, where they helped to fund the Nazi war effort. The charges against him related to the period between May and July 1944 when 137 trains carrying roughly 425,000 Jews from Hungary arrived in Auschwitz. At least 300,000 of them were sent straight to the gas chambers.”

Gröning told the court he had once watched a camp guard smash an abandoned baby’s head against the metal side of a truck. He also witnessed the mass murder of some Jews with Zyklon B gas after they had escaped and taken refuge in a farmhouse. “That was the only time I saw a complete gassing,” he said. “I did not take part.” He maintained he had twice asked to be transferred from Auschwitz to combat duties. Gröning died at age 96 before he could commence serving his sentence.

“The essential, almost frightening, point about Oskar Gröning,” said Laurence Rees, a BBC journalist who interviewed him at length in 2005, “is that he one of the least exceptional human beings you are ever likely to meet.”

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In a 2017 article, using the very low estimate of only one million murders at Auschwitz, Sven Felix Kellerhoff, senior history editor the German website WELT, estimated that approximately 125 murders were committed per SS-related “employee” at Auschwitz over a five-year period. This estimate was only made possible after the Institute for National Remembrance in Poland produced an online database listing names of Germans and Nazi supporters who had worked at the overall Auschwitz complex between 1940 and 1945.

A Polish historian named Aleksander Lasik, who taught at the Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz, had worked in tandem with the IPN branch in Kraków, over a 35-year period, to compile this data, commencing with his doctoral thesis, initially on paper, in 1982. His list of SS-related perpetrators was expanded electronically after 1988 to include the personnel of other concentration camps that were mostly, but not exclusively, on Polish territory occupied by the Wehrmacht.

Cumulatively, Lasik’s initiative identified approximately 25,000 SS personnel employed in concentration camps in and around Poland. Some 8,502 of these worked within the three Auschwitz camps of Auschwitz I, Birkenau and Monowitz (Buna). Of the approximately 6,000 Auschwitz-related concentration camp personnel who survived the war as of May 8, 1945, only approximately 800 of them were ever charged with a crime.

Of these, the vast majority, just over 700, were charged and convicted in Poland, including two of the six Auschwitz commanders, Rudolf Höß and Arthur Liebehenschel, both of whom received the death penalty. (Three were sentenced to death by other trials; two were executed, one died prior to execution. Richard Baer was not apprehended until 1960; he died in custody in 1963.)

Hence, the number of SS-related personnel pertaining to Auschwitz who were ever prosecuted and convicted in Germany is extremely small in comparison to the 8,500 who were complicit in varying degrees.

Due to German privacy laws, Lasik’s database was not legally published and circulated in Germany. The IPN website based in Poland is nonetheless trilingual and searchable. Research continues even though the feasibility of any further prosecutions is negligible. Fueled by Lasik’s research and determination, Auschwitz 1940-1945: Central Issues in the History of the Camp (5 volumes) was published by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum (Oswiecism 2000) by Aleksander Lasik, Franciszek Piper, Piotr Setkiewicz, et al.

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In 2013, more than 68 years after the surrender of Hitler’s Germany, the public prosecutor’s office in Stuttgart brought charges against 93-year-old, native Lithuanian, Hans Lipschis, who became a German citizen in 1943. As a former prison guard at Auschwitz, he was accused of being an accessory to murder in at least 10,510 cases. After Lipschis had managed to immigrate to the United States, the Simon Wiesenthal Center had listed him in fourth place on their most wanted list.

Born in 1919, he was drafted into the Waffen-SS after the Wehrmacht had attacked the Soviet Union. As an “ethnic German” he was seconded to Auschwitz where he worked from 1941 to 1945. Lipschis pleaded his innocence, claiming he only worked there as a baker. Due his old age, he was not formally convicted. In 2014, judges at Ellwangen court in south-west Germany said the accused was unfit for trial due to dementia. He died in 2016 at age 96.

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Several more former SS men from Auschwitz were identified as late as 2019, but they were repeatedly spared prosecution due to their inability to stand trial.

Also see VRBA & NAZIS on this site.

OTHER AUSCHWITZ CONVICTIONS

There were at least 8,502 individuals who facilitated the murders at Auschwitz. Only one-tenth of them were ever convicted of a crime.

These figures were cited in a 2017 article for the German website WELT by its senior history editor Sven Felix Kellerhoff.

Using the very low estimate of only one million murders, Kellerhoff arrived at the estimate of approximately 125 murders per SS-related “employee” at Auschwitz over an approximately five-year period.

This estimate was only made possible after the Institute for National Remembrance in Poland produced an online database listing names of Germans and Nazi supporters who had worked at the overall Auschwitz complex between 1940 and 1945.

Alexander Lazik

Born in 1953, Aleksander Lasik is a Polish historian specializing in the history of the Schutzstaffel within German concentration camps. He was one of the consultants for the BBC series Auschwitz: The Nazis and “The Final Solution” (2005).

A Polish historian named Aleksander Lasik, who long taught at the Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz, had worked in tandem with the IPN branch in Kraków, over a 35-year period, to compile this data, commencing with his doctoral thesis, initially on paper, in 1982. The list of SS-related perpetrators was expanded electronically after 1988 to include the personnel of other concentration camps that were mostly, but not exclusively, on Polish territory occupied by the Wehrmacht.

Cumulatively, Lasik’s initiative identified approximately 25,000 SS men employed in concentration camps in and around Poland. Some 8,502 of these worked within the three Auschwitz camps of Auschwitz I, Birkenau and Monowitz (Buna). Of the approximately 6,000 Auschwitz-related concentration camp personnel who survived the war as of May 8, 1945, only approximately 800 of them were ever charged with a crime.

Of these, the vast majority, just over 700, were charged and convicted in Poland, including two of the six Auschwitz commanders, Rudolf Höß and Arthur Liebehenschel, both of whom received the death penalty. (Three were sentenced to death by other trials; two were executed, one died prior to execution. Richard Baer was not apprehended until 1960; he died in custody in 1963.)

Hence, the number of SS-related personnel pertaining to Auschwitz who were ever prosecuted and convicted in Germany is extremely small in comparison to the 8,500 who were complicit in varying degrees.

Due to German privacy laws, Lasik’s database was not legally published and circulated in Germany. The IPN website based in Poland is nonetheless trilingual and searchable. Research continues even though the feasibility of any further prosecutions is negligible.

Auschwitz 1940-1945: Central Issues in the History of the Camp (5 volumes) was published by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum (Oswiecism 2000) by Aleksander Lasik, Franciszek Piper, Piotr Setkiewicz, et al.


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Map of Auschwitz and environs today

Auschwitz and environs. Tourists to Birkenau can now stay at the nearby Auschwitz Hilton and enjoy a variety of “wellness” activities, as well as go to McDonald’s for lunch.

Next: THE MISSING CHAPTER