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Former Nazi guard: "I couldn't imagine" Jews surviving Auschwitz

BERLIN -- A former Auschwitz guard being tried on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder has testified that it was clear to him Jews were not expected to leave the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland alive.

"I couldn't imagine that" happening, former SS Sgt. Oskar Groening told the Lueneburg state court on Thursday during the third day of his trial, the dpa news agency reported.

Former Nazi bookkeeper at Auschwitz on trial as accessory to murder

The 93-year-old's answer came in response to a question from attorneys representing Auschwitz survivors who have joined the trial as co-plaintiffs, as allowed under German law.

Pleas are not entered in the German system. On the first day of his trial Tuesday, Groening acknowledged sharing in "moral guilt" but said the court will have to determine if he is legally guilty.

On Wednesday, Groening described in chilling detail how cattle cars full of Jews were brought to the Auschwitz death camp, the people stripped of their belongings and then most led directly into gas chambers.

Between May and July 1944, so many trains were arriving that often two would have to wait with closed doors as the first was "processed," Groening testified at the Lueneburg state court.

93-year-old Nazi guard on trial for his role at Auschwitz

Though he was more regularly assigned to the camp's Auschwitz I section, he said he guarded the Birkenau ramp three times, including one busy 24-hour shift. The main gas chambers were located at Birkenau.

"The capacity of the gas chambers and the capacity of the crematoria were quite limited. Someone said that 5,000 people were processed in 24 hours but I didn't verify this. I didn't know," he said. "For the sake of order we waited until train 1 was entirely processed and finished."

Auschwitz survivors describe their arrival as chaotic, with Nazi guards yelling orders, dogs barking and families being ripped apart.

But Groening, 93, maintained the opposite, saying "it was very orderly and not as strenuous" on the ramp at Birkenau

"The process was the same as Auschwitz I. The only difference was that there were no trucks," he said during the second day of his trial. "They all walked - some in one direction some, in another direction ... to where the crematoria and gas chambers were."

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Former SS guard Oskar Groening sits in ths sun during the noon break of the trial against him in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. Markus Schreiber, AP

Groening faces between three and 15 years in prison if convicted in the trial, which is scheduled through July.

Eva Kor, 81, was one of the Jews who arrived at Auschwitz in 1944. Though she doesn't remember Groening personally, she said she can't forget the scene.

"Everything was going very fast. Yelling, crying, pushing; even dogs were barking. I had never experienced anything that fast or that crazy in my entire life," she told The Associated Press before addressing the court.

Her two older sisters and parents were taken directly to the gas chambers, while she and her twin sister, both 10 at the time, were ripped away from their mother to be used as human guinea pigs for notorious camp Dr. Josef Mengele's experiments.

"All I remember is her arms stretched out in despair as she was pulled away," Kor remembered. "I never even got to say goodbye."

Kor, who now lives in Indiana, is one of more than 60 Auschwitz survivors and their families from the U.S., Canada, Israel and elsewhere who have joined the trial as co-plaintiffs as allowed under German law.

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Auschwitz survivors Hedy Bohm (L) and Eva Pusztai-Fahidi attend a press conference of the International Auschwitz Committee in Lueneburg, northern Germany, on April 20, 2015. RONNY HARTMANN/AFP/Getty Images

CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports that 86-year-old Hedy Bohm was a teenager when she was deported to Auschwitz during the war. Both her parents were murdered there.

"I cried after my mom and she heard me, turned around," Bohm recalled. "We just looked at each other and she didn't say a word, and I saw her turn and walk away... I was ordered to go to the right and I never saw her again."

Thomas Walther, who represents many co-plaintiffs, said he and his clients were happy Groening agreed to testify, but suspected he was withholding many details.

"There is an ocean of truth, but with many islands of lies," he said.

Kor, the first co-plaintiff to address the court, described her experience Wednesday and asked Groening whether he knew Mengele or details about files he kept in hopes of learning more about what diseases she and her sister, who both survived the camp, were injected with.

Groening showed no reaction to Kor's statement and his attorney, Hans Holtermann, said his client would try to answer what questions he could, but he didn't believe that Groening knew Mengele.

Groening guarded prisoners' baggage on the ramps, but his main task was to collect and tally money stolen from the new arrivals and then send it to Berlin - a job for which the German press has dubbed him the "Accountant of Auschwitz."

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