Oskar Groening, a 94-year old German man and former SS guard, has been sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the murder of 300,000 people at the death camp, in what could perhaps be described as one of the last Holocaust trials to take place.
Does sentencing a 94 year old man to 4 years in prison for crimes he committed 70 years ago really produce justice? #OskarGroening— Michael Madden (@MichaelMadden23) July 15, 2015
The charges against Groening relate to the brief period between May and June, 1944 — when more than 4,25,000 Hungarian Jews were brought to Auschwitz, out of which at least 300,000 were sent immediately to the gas chambers. Though Groening did not kill anyone himself, he was responsible for seizing and sorting the banknotes from the trainloads of arriving Jews, thereby supporting the Nazi regime by his compliance.
According to CBC News, Judge Franz Kompisch laid emphasis on the point, adding that Oskar Groening should be punished for his moral complicity in the “unfathomable crime.”
“Mr. Groening is not a monster. You chose the safe desk job. What you consider to be moral guilt and what you depict as being a cog in the wheel is exactly what lawmakers view as being an accessory to murder.”
On his first day in court in April, Groening had said that he felt morally guilty of the crime, but that it was up to the court to decide whether he should be held guilty in legal terms. As per a report by NBC News, his lawyer, Hans Holtermann, reiterated Groening’s stance to the court, adding as follows.
“In his statement he said he couldn’t ask for forgiveness because for him, the crimes committed at Auschwitz were on such a scale that he can’t expect either the victims or their relatives to even think about the question of forgiveness.”
In his final address to the judges, the white-haired Oskar, his voice wavering with emotion, asked for clemency one last time.
“No one should have taken part in Auschwitz. I know that. I sincerely regret not having lived up to this realization earlier and more consistently. I am very sorry.”
As it turns out, there was no leniency to be had for Groening, who walked out of the court with a hunched back and a bowed head.
Jewish groups all over the world welcomed the verdict, with World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder issuing the following statement.
“Albeit belatedly, justice has been done. Mr Groening was only a small cog in the Nazi death machine but without the actions of people like him, the mass murder of millions of Jews and others would not have been possible.”
One Auschwitz survivor who attended the entire trial, Leon Schwarzbaum, did not know whether or not to celebrate the judgment.
“It’s a matter of justice, of course. I can’t say that I’m happy. My life has been destroyed, completely destroyed.”
The four-year sentence could probably amount to the 94-year-old Oskar Groening spending his last days in jail. In any case, the sentence has left Oskar with some more time to fight his own demons.