Reinhold Hanning: Convicted Auschwitz Nazi guard dies at 95 before serving sentence

Reinhold Hanning who was convicted and sentenced to 5-years in prison last year, for facilitating the murder of 170,000 people at Auschwitz, died at the age of 95. Hanning had yet to begin his sentence in prison as he awaited his appeal hearing he filed for following the German court's ruling last June.
Reinhold Hanning died at 95 years of age Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

Reinhold Hanning, a Nazi guard at Auschwitz convicted last year for facilitating the murder of 170,000 people, died at the age of 95 before beginning his 5-year sentence in prison.

Andreas Scharmer, Hanning's lawyer, told the Associated Press that his client died on May 30 but declined to give further details about the cause of death. Scharmer himself had filed the appeal made by Hanning last year following the sentencing.

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Hanning was likely one of the last to be sentenced for their role in committing Nazi crimes against humanity. Last year, the presiding judge ruled that Hanning was a "willing and efficient henchman” for the Nazi regime in the Holocaust as most are well over the age of 90 by now.

Hanning was only brought to trial after German law was reformed which allows the courts to prosecute not only those with evidence of their atrocities. Today, anyone who is known to have taken part in the Nazi extermination system may be prosecuted.

The Nazi extermination camp, Auschwitz Photo Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild/Channel 2 News

During his trial last summer, Hanning apologized for his role in the events that took place between January 1942 and June 1944 in Auschwitz. Hanning told the survivors who attended his trial: "I want to say that it disturbs me deeply that I was part of such a criminal organization," he said. "I am ashamed that I saw injustice and never did anything about it and I apologize for my actions. I am very, very sorry."

At the age of 13, Hanning joined the Hitler Youth and then volunteered for the SS when he was 18-years-old. After being injured in a battle in Kiev by a grenade, he was assigned to guard duty in Auschwitz.

"People were shot, gassed and burned. I could see how corpses were taken back and forth or moved out," he said. "I could smell the burning bodies; I knew corpses were being burned."

Thomas Walther who represented more than 20 plaintiffs in the case against Hanning, said following the news of Hanning’s death that he was disappointed that the defendant had died before he could be imprisoned: "If the judiciary had not been silent for decades, then there would not have been this disappointment.”



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