Trial begins for former Nazi guard who worked at Auschwitz

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Former Auschwitz guard Reinhold Hanning (2R) sits between his lawyers Andreas Scharmer (2L) and Johannes Salmen (R) as he waits for the start of his trial at court in Detmold, western Germany, on February 11, 2016.  The 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard went on trial for complicity in the murders of tens of thousands of people at the Nazi concentration camp.  / AFP / POOL / Bernd Thissen        (Photo credit should read BERND THISSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Auschwitz guard Reinhold Hanning sits between his lawyers Andreas Scharmer, left, and Johannes Salmen, right, as he waits for the start of his trial at court in Detmold, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2016. The 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard went on trial for complicity in the murders of tens of thousands of people at the Nazi concentration camp. Photo by Bernd Thissen/AFP/Getty Images

A trial began in Germany Thursday for a 94-year-old man who worked as a guard at Auschwitz during World War II.

Prosecutors in the city of Detmold said Reinhold Hanning was an accessory to the murder of 170,000 people while stationed at the camp.

Reading the indictment in the courtroom, prosecutor Andreas Brendel said that Hanning and others who worked at Auschwitz knew of the killings that went on at the camp.

The selection process, during which people were either directed to gas chambers or forced labor, “was placed entirely in the hands of the SS soldiers and doctors working on the ramps,” Brendel said.

Hanning told investigators that he had served in what was known as the Auschwitz I section of the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. He denied working in the Auschwitz II-Birkenau section, where the majority of the camp’s victims died.

“I want to know why millions of Jews were killed and here we both are,” said Leon Schwarzbaum, a 94-year-old Auschwitz survivor who testified in court Thursday.

According to prosecutors, Hanning was serving in the SS Death Head Unit, which was responsible for overseeing the Nazi death camps, when he was transferred to Auschwitz in January 1942. He was at Auschwitz until at least June 1944, according to Germany’s Nazi war crimes office.

Three other trials are expected to move forward this year for other Nazi guards who worked at concentration camps.

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