The fact that Oskar Groening never served his sentence does not negate his guilt, but it is frustrating for so many of us who wanted to see a measure of justice for his actions in enabling the Holocaust.
Groening was convicted of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people at Auschwitz.
It feels unfair that he died in a hospital bed at the old age of 96.
A conviction for his crime, even if he had served his four-year sentence, could never feel proportionate justice for his actions.
But, perhaps, we can find two encouraging messages from Groening’s conviction in 2015.
First, that old age and the passing of time are not a barrier to conviction. The fact that justice was pursued, even against a man in his nineties, should serve as a warning to other current and past perpetrators of genocide who are still alive.
Second, that despite Groening being ‘just’ a bookmaker at Auschwitz, his role as an enabler of genocide was rightly recognised as enough to convict him for his part in the Holocaust.
The defence of being simply a “cog in the gears”, which Groening argued in an interview with Der Spiegel, was not enough to avoid a guilty verdict.
Groening was convicted in 2015; the pursuit of justice and conviction in open court exposed his crimes on the global stage.