Oskar Gröning, 93, a former SS guard at Auschwitz, revealed his remorse for the role he played in the Holocaust. He is currently on trial charged with complicity in the murder of 300,000 Jews.
Gröning is one of the last remaining Nazi SS members alive, he delivered a lengthy speech recounting the two years he spent at the extermination camp after he decided to volunteer for the SS. Gröning was responsible for confiscating the personal belongings of prisoners who arrived at the camp. He would collect money, keeping it in a steel safe and at various times would travel to the Reich Headquarters in Berlin to hand it in.
It is without question that I am morally complicit in the murder of millions of Jews through my activities at Auschwitz…..Before the victims, I also admit to this moral guilt here, with regret and humility. To the question as to whether I am criminally culpable, that’s for you to decide.”
In the past Gröning has been quite outspoken regarding the two years he spent at Auschwitz. In a 2005 BBC documentary, Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution he detailed the horrors he witnessed, and admitted to knowing about the gas chambers. However, Gröning has always maintained his innocence, protesting he was a ‘small cog in the machine’.
I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria. I saw the open fires. I was on the ramp when the selections [for the gas chambers] took place…..I would like you to believe these atrocities happened — because I was there.”
This will be the second attempt to bring Gröning to court after the original investigation in 1978 broke down seven years later – prosecutors ruled that unless it could be proven Gröning was directly responsible for the deaths of prisoners he could not be put on trial.
However in 2012, John Demjanjuk in Munich was found guilty of mass murder simply by working at the Sobibor extermination camp. Setting a change in precedent where an individual’s presence at a concentration camp alongside knowledge of what was happening there, is sufficient to secure a conviction.
Personally, I have no sympathy for Gröning’s defence which can be paraphrased into – “I was just following orders.” He should be punished and in my opinion he is lucky that should he be found guilty it will be at the ripe old age of 93.