Oskar Gröning, a 94-year-old German who worked as a bookkeeper at the Auschwitz death camp has been convicted of being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people and sentenced to four years in prison, in what could be one of the last big Holocaust trials.
He claims he did not kill anyone himself while working at the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during the second world war, but prosecutors argued that by sorting the banknotes taken from the trainloads of arriving Jews he helped support a regime responsible for mass murder. The trial went deep into the question of whether people who were small cogs in the Nazi machinery, but did not actively participate in the killing of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, were guilty of crimes. Until recently, the answer from the German justice system was no.
Below is an excerpt from a BBC documentary that interviews Oskar Gröning as well as some family members of victims.
Gröning, who has been on trial since April, has admitted moral guilt but said it was up to the court to decide whether he was legally guilty and that he could only ask God to forgive him as he was not entitled to ask this of victims of the Holocaust.
During his time at Auschwitz, Gröning’s job was to collect the belongings of the deportees after they arrived by train and had been put through a selection process that resulted in many being sent directly to the gas chambers.
Gröning, who was 21 at the time and by his own admission an enthusiastic Nazi when he was sent to work at the camp in 1942, inspected people’s luggage, removing and counting any banknotes that were inside and sending them on to SS offices in Berlin, where they helped to fund the Nazi war effort.
Prosecutors concentrated the charge on the period between May and July 1944, the time of the mass deportation of Hungary’s Jewish community during which 137 trains brought 425,000 people to Auschwitz, of which at least 300,000 were exterminated in the gas chambers.
SOURCE: theguardian.com, BBC, YouTube