A German court has convicted a former SS guard for complicity in the mass murders at the Nazi-run Auschwitz death camp, capping what is expected to be one of the last Holocaust trials.

"The accused is sentenced to five years' jail for accessory to murder in 170,000 cases," the court ruled on Friday, in the case of 94-year old Reinhold Hanning.

The court said Hanning was "aware that in Auschwitz, innocent people were murdered every day in gas chambers".

An estimated 1.1 million people were killed in Auschwitz, and 90 percent of those killed were Jews.

Auschwitz's 'conspiracy of silence'

Hanning showed no reaction as the judge, Anke Grudda, read her justification for the verdict and sentence.

"You were in Auschwitz for two and a half years, performed an important function ... You were part of a criminal organisation and took part in criminal activity in Auschwitz," she said.

Several elderly Auschwitz survivors testified at the trial about their own experiences, and were among 58 survivors or their families who joined the process as co-plaintiffs as allowed under German law.

"It is a just verdict, but he should say more, tell the truth for the young people," said Leon Schwarzbaum, a 95-year-old Auschwitz survivor from Berlin.

'Shamed'

"He is an old man and probably won't have to go to jail, but he should say what happened at Auschwitz. Auschwitz was like something the world has never seen."

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During his four-month trial, Hanning admitted serving as an Auschwitz guard. He said he was ashamed that he was aware Jews were being killed but did nothing to try to stop it.

Hanning said during his trial that he volunteered for the armed wing of the Nazi party, called the SS, at age 18. He served in Auschwitz from January 1942 to June 1944 but said he was not involved in the killings in the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Despite his age, Hanning seemed alert during the four-month trial, paying attention to testimony and occasionally walking into the courtroom on his own, though usually using a wheelchair.

Though there is no evidence Hanning was responsible for a specific crime, he was tried under new legal reasoning that as a guard he helped the death camp to operate, and thus could be tried for accessory to murder.

Source: Agencies