Auschwitz worker goes on trial at 93

Groening, pictured, was a 21-year-old junior NCO in the SS when he was ordered to Auschwitz camp [Via]

Oskar Groening, a German bookkeeper at Auschwitz during World War Two, is on trial for his role in the Holocaust at the age of 93. Oskar was stationed at Auschwitz when it was first opened in 1942.

He is now on trial for the role he played at the camp, although he is not being accused of killing or mistreating any of the prisoners. Oskar is eager to have the truth told about what happened at Auschwitz to prevent it happening again.

At the time, Oskar was 21 and a junior NCO in the German SS. He says that when the camp opened there was a selection process of those prisoners who were fit to work, and those who were too sick or elderly and were sent to the hospital. However we know now that they were not taken to the hospital but instead were being killed. By the final days of Auschwitz around 90% of the prisoners were being gassed to death in the gas chambers.

Oskar’s job was to sort through the prisoners’ luggage as they arrived at the camp. This gave the prisoners the impression that their belongings were being processed for them to eventually get them back. But now we know that it was just a sham to keep the prisoners calm and adhere to Nazi orders.

Oskar says that he saw the elderly or sick being shot in the head by other SS officers who were responsible for clearing the last people off the trains that arrived at Auschwitz. Their bodies would be thrown onto lorries. On one occasion Oskar heard a baby crying. It had been left behind by a Jewish mother on the train’s ramp, so one of the SS officers picked it up by its legs and smashed its head against the side of a truck until it was dead.

Hungarian Jews not selected as laborers were murdered in the gas chambers almost immediately after arrival. Photo from the Auschwitz Album (May 1944). [Via]

Oskar pleaded to be transferred out of Auschwitz but his requests were denied. His commanding officer reminded him of his pledge to Hitler, and alluded to him that he might be selected to be taken prisoner if he continued to voice his concerns. Oskar spent the next two years in his office-based bookkeeping position.

Today, Oskar is being held trial in Luneburg for being part of the termination of 300,000 Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz in 1944. He has been confronted face to face by former prisoners that were held at Auschwitz, as they give evidence to the court.

A sign over the entrance to Auschwitz death camp reads ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ meaning ‘Work makes you free’ [Via]

Eva Mozes Kor, now aged 81, was a prisoner at Auschwitz and survived horrendous medical experiments in the prison’s medical centre, overseen by Josef Mengele.

Oskar agrees that he was complicit in the Holocaust since he was working with the Nazis, even if he only had a desk job. Today he asks the Jewish people for forgiveness. Oskar wants to make sure that the truth is known, and that those who try to deny the Holocaust can no longer deny it.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE