Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 16th 2015 Contents A36
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, July 16, 2015
LUENEBURG---Oskar Groening confessed during his
trial to feeling "moral guilt" for serving as an SS ser-
geant at Auschwitz.
Yesterday, a court ruled that he was guilty of being
an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews and sen-
tenced him to four years in prison.
The 94-year-old, who testified that he oversaw the
collection of prisoners belongings and ensured valuables
and cash were separated to be sent to Berlin, listened
expressionlessly to the verdict after a two and a half-
month trial that could set a legal landmark.
The verdict, and presiding Judge Franz Kompisch s
thorough and impassioned detailing of the Lueneburg
state court s ruling, renewed hope of more 11th-hour
prosecutions of former members of the SS who served
at death camps---no matter their age.
"This verdict was critical, because this is the first
case brought where the prosecution charged a person
who wasn t involved in the physical side of mass mur-
der," said the Simon Wiesenthal Center s head Nazi
hunter, Efraim Zuroff, in a telephone interview from
"This paves the way for additional trials of individuals
who did not literally pull the trigger but who were part
of the implementation of the Final Solution."
Kompisch acknowledged that Groening was born
in a different time, growing up after World War I in
Germany in a right-wing nationalist family, in a society
where Jews were portrayed as a danger to the country.
However, he said Groening joined the SS of his own
volition when he had many other options.
"You didn t want to stand on the sidelines," Kompisch
told Groening, who listened attentively for more than
an hour and a half as the judge detailed the ruling,
occasionally sipping from a bottle of water.
"You wanted to be there."
In his job at the death camp, for which he has been
dubbed the "accountant of Auschwitz," Kompisch said
Groening was part of the "machinery of death," helping
the camp function and also collecting money stolen
from the victims to help the Nazi cause.
Though he knew exactly what was going on at the
camp, he did not have himself transferred away, which
likely would have meant serving on the deadly Russian
Front, Kompisch said.
Groening walked out of the courtroom after the ver-
dict without talking to reporters.
The charges related to a period between May and
July 1944 when hundreds of thousands of Jews from
Hungary were brought to the Auschwitz-Birkenau
complex in Nazi-occupied Poland. Most were imme-
diately gassed to death.
Unusually for trials of former Nazi camp guards,
Groening was open about his past throughout the 17
days of hearings.
In their verdict, judges went beyond the three and
a half-year sentence prosecutors sought. Groening s
defence team had argued for acquittal, contending that
as far as the law is concerned he did not facilitate mass
Kompisch said Groening deserved respect for having
been open about what he did and having testified, but
that given the enormity of the crime it would have
been inappropriate to impose a lower sentence.
Both sides have a week to appeal, and both pros-
ecutors and the defence said they would consider
whether to do so. Defence lawyer Hans Holtermann
said Groening remains free in the meantime, and given
his age and the possible length of appeal proceedings
it was uncertain whether he would actually go to prison.
Dozens of Auschwitz survivors and their relatives
joined the trial as co-plaintiffs, as German law allows,
though none were present for the verdict.
The moral is that "no matter how old you are, you
will have to face justice," Angela Orosz-Richt, a co-
plaintiff who testified at the trial, said. (AP)
With the help of a
Red Cross worker,
former SS guard
right, leaves the
court after the
verdict of his trial in
Groening, 94, who
served at the
camp, was convicted
on 300,000 counts
of accessory to
murder and given a
Late justice for Auschwitz' slain Jews
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