Ex-Auschwitz guard Reinhold Hanning (94) goes on trial over 170,000 deaths
A 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard has gone on trial in Germany for his role in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews.
Reinhold Hanning was taken to court in the western town of Detmold seven decades after the defeat of the Nazis and is charged with at least 170,000 counts of accessory to murder over his role at the camp in occupied Poland.
The former SS sergeant maintains that he served in a part of Auschwitz where no gassings took place.
Prosecutors argue that all guards helped the camp function and that during the so-called "Hungarian action" in 1944 - when hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were shipped to the camp - almost all were called upon to help deal with the vast numbers of people arriving at the killing complex in Nazi-occupied Poland.
The trial is the first of three scheduled this year against ageing Third Reich offciers and is the latest to follow a precedent set in 2011, when former Ohio car-worker John Demjanjuk became the first person to be convicted in Germany solely for serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of involvement in a specific killing.
Hanning's lawyer, Johannes Salmen, said that his client acknowledges serving at the Auschwitz I part of the camp complex in Nazi-occupied Poland, but denies serving at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau section, where most of the 1.1 million victims were killed.
Prosecutor Andreas Brendel said, however, that guards in the main camp were also used as on-call guards to augment those in Birkenau when trainloads of Jews were brought in.
"We believe that these auxiliaries were used in particular during the so-called Hungarian action in support of Birkenau," he said.