One of the last big Holocaust trials that has been going on since April has finally been concluded on Wednesday. A German man who used to be one of Auschwitz’s book-keepers was charged and convicted of being an accessory to the murder of more than 300,000 people.
Oskar Groening, 94, was sentenced to four years in prison; even though he is not directly responsible for the death of no one during his time spent working at the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, prosecutors decided he helped and supported a regime responsible for genocide argued by keeping the records of the Jews arriving in trains.
An old man now, Groening has admitted moral guilt, but said it was the court’s call to decide whether he should be held legally responsible for his acts. In a statement earlier in July, he showed deep remorse by saying that he could only receive forgiveness from God, as he doesn’t deserve the victims of the Holocaust and their families to forgive him.
This trial helped answer the question of whether people who did not actively participate in the mass murder of 6 million Jews that happened during the Holocaust – but were still small parts oiling the great genocide’s machine – should be considered guilty of war crimes. The German justice system believed, until recently, that the answer is no.
Groening’s terrible jog at Auschwitz was to gather the belongings the deportees brought with them as they arrived at the camp by train. After being asked to leave all their luggage behind, the Jews were put through a selection process that sent most of them directly to the gas chambers.
According to his own description, the 21-year-old Groening was a passionate Nazi when he arrived at Auschwitz in 1942. He was assigned to inspect people’s luggage, search for and count any bank notes left inside and then send them to Berlin, where the SS offices directed them to various needs in the Nazi war effort.
The indictment charged Groening for his activity between May and July 1944, when more than 300,000 deportees out of the total 425,000 Hungarian Jews that came into Auschwitz were sent straight to of the gas chambers.
While many Germans are eager to see the Holocaust trials over and want to draw a line between that dark period and the post-war democratic nation, some disagree with the conviction of old men, who are often in poor health, for crimes that happened almost 70 years ago.
Image Source: Stars and Stripes