Shalom Life | July 11, 2015

"I Couldn't Imagine That Happening,' Says 93-Year-Old Accountant of Auschwitz

Oskar Groening, who served as an SS sergeant, is facing three to fifteen years for being an accessory to over 300,000 murders

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: April 23rd, 2015 in News » World

Photo: Oskar Groening

Credit: AP


A 93 year-old man being called “The Accountant of Auschwitz” is being tried on 300,000 counts of being an accessory to murder, after claiming publicly that he knew the Jewish peoples being brought to the camp would never be allowed to leave.

“I couldn’t imagine that happening,” said former SS Sgt. Oskar Groening, in response to a question asked by an Auschwitz survivor at the Lueneburg state court, as reported by the Daily Mail UK.

This past Wednesday, Groening explained how he watched cattle carts filled with Jewish people from across Europe be brought to the Auschwitz death camp, people being stripped of their belongings, and then dragged off to gas chambers without ever getting to say another word to their families. He even detailed a 24-hour shift he had guarding a ramp that people used to get out of the train carts.

Groening is being charged for his services during May and July 1949, a time when over 425,000 Hungarian Jews were brought to Nazi-occupied Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, and put to death. The main gas chamber was located in the Birkenau section of the compound, which he said he only guarded three times as he spent most of his time in the Auschwitz sector of the death camp.

According to Groening, many times he would have to wait around to do anything until the first group of Jews had been “processed.”

“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. For the sake of order we waited until train 1 was entirely processed and finished,” he testified to the court.

The now 81 year-old Eva Kor, who arrived with her family in Auschwitz in 1944, says she’ll never forget the scene that awaited her.

“'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 explained in the report.

However, Groening says he remembers people being unloaded from the vehicles as, “very orderly and not as strenuous,” as the trains were in Birkenau. And that, “The process was the same as Auschwitz. The only difference was that there were no trucks. They all walked - some in one direction some, in another direction... to where the crematoria and gas chambers were.”

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

Kor’s two older sisters and her parents were gassed directly after they arrived in Auschwitz. Kor and her twin sister, however, were just two of the some 3,000 people who were experimented on by Dr. Josef Mengele.

Kor is currently one of more than 60 Auschwitz survivors who have all signed onto the trial as co-plaintiffs, with most of the victims now living in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. Under German law, anyone who assisted in operating a death camp can be tried as being an accessory to murder, even if there’s no evidence they participated in the specific crime itself.

Although many plaintiffs are happy that Groening has been open about testifying, and has even testified in hearings against other Nazis, people believe he’s withholding details about his time as a member of the SS.

Kor also asked Groening if he knew any of the diseases or chemicals that both she and her sister had been injected with during their time as Mengele’s lab rats. However Hans Holtermann said in the report that he doesn’t believe Groening knew Mengele personally. Groening spent most of his time guarding prisoners on the ramp, or going through their possessions in search of money to be sent back to Berlin (hence his nickname).

Although Groening has said that he’s morally guilty, he’s waiting on the court to see if he’s going to be serving anywhere from three to fifteen years in prison for his crimes.

“I’m going to take whatever confession he gives - it's better than no confession,” Kor said to reporters. “Maybe this is the best thing he has ever done in his life. Isn't that sad?”

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