LUENEBURG, Germany - A former SS officer known as the Bookkeeper of Auschwitz said he was "very sorry" for his time stationed at the death camp, ahead of a verdict expected Wednesday in his trial.
"No-one should have taken part in Auschwitz," Oskar Groening, 94, told a court in the northern city of Lueneburg Tuesday.
"I know that. I sincerely regret not having lived up to this realisation earlier and more consistently. I am very sorry," he said, his voice wavering.
Groening has been on trial since April accused of 300,000 counts of accessory to murder in the cases of deported Hungarian Jews sent to the gas chambers between May and July 1944.
One of his defence lawyers, Susanne Frangenberg, called for an acquittal arguing that "Mr Groening's role at Auschwitz was minor".
Last week public prosecutors said they were seeking three and a half years' jail for Groening based on the "nearly incomprehensible number of victims", but mitigated by "the limited contribution of the accused" to their deaths.
The court, which said it would hand down its verdict on Wednesday, could sentence Groening to up to 15 years though most observers say it is unlikely he would serve jail time due to his advanced age.
Groening served as a bookkeeper at Auschwitz, sorting and counting the money taken from those killed or used as slave labour, collecting cash in different European currencies, and shipping it back to Berlin.
The prosecution assumes that on at least three occasions, Groening performed "ramp duty", processing deportees as they arrived by rail at the extermination and forced labour camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
The trial, expected to be one of the last of its kind, has seen harrowing testimony by more than a dozen Holocaust survivors, who are also co-plaintiffs in the case.