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Thread: Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial

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    Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial

    Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial

    4/21/2015

    LUENEBURG, Germany (Reuters) - A 93-year-old former bookkeeper at Auschwitz who is accused of being an accessory to mass murder told a German court that he felt morally guilty for his work at the Nazi death camp, describing in detail the grisly killings he had witnessed there. Oskar Groening, in what could be one of the last big Holocaust trials, is accused of assisting in the murder of 300,000 people although he did not kill anyone himself.

    "In moral terms, my actions make me guilty," Groening told the court in the northern town of Lueneburg at the start of the trial. "I stand before the victims with remorse and humility," he said. "On the question of whether I am guilty in legal terms, you must decide."Groening was 21, and by his own admission an enthusiastic Nazi, when he was sent to work at Auschwitz in 1942. His case is unusual because unlike many of the other SS men and women who worked in concentration camps, he has spoken openly in interviews about his time at the camp in occupied Poland.

    His job was to collect the belongings of deportees after they arrived at the camp by train and had been put through a selection process that resulted in many being sent directly to the gas chambers.
    He inspected their luggage, removing and counting any bank notes that were inside, and sending them on to SS offices in Berlin, where they helped to fund the Nazi war effort.

    The charges against Groening relate to the period between May and July 1944 when 137 trains carrying roughly 425,000 Jews from Hungary arrived in Auschwitz. At least 300,000 of them were sent straight to the gas chambers, the indictment says.

    Groening described some of the murders that he witnessed at Auschwitz. On his first day on the ramp where Jewish prisoners exited the trains, he saw an SS colleague grab a crying baby and slam its head against a truck until it was quiet. "I was so shaken. I don't find what he did good at all," Groening said, telling the court that he later went to his commander to request a transfer from Auschwitz.

    He also told of an incident in late 1942 when he witnessed naked Jews being herded into a converted farm house near the camp. A fellow officer shut the door, put on a gas mask, opened a can and poured its contents down a hatch. The screams became louder and more desperate but after a short time they became quieter again," Groening said. "This is the only time I participated in a gassing," he added, before correcting himself: "I don't mean participated, I mean observed."
    My personal take on this is that if you were a Nazi SS serving at a labor/death camp, then you are indeed complicit in any deaths/murders that occurred there. Probably, his advanced age and the accepted moral guilt of this defendant will mitigate his sentence if found guilty.


    Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet. -- Marine Corps General James 'Chaos' Mattis

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    Re: Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial

    Quote Originally Posted by Simpleχity View Post
    Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial


    My personal take on this is that if you were a Nazi SS serving at a labor/death camp, then you are indeed complicit in any deaths/murders that occurred there. Probably, his advanced age and the accepted moral guilt of this defendant will mitigate his sentence if found guilty.
    What is interesting is that he seems to have had very little to to with the actual cutting edge of the business and decided to volunteer for fighting duty to get away from the nastiness of camp duties. This means he was at arms length and not a weapon in hand or line of command perpetrator. This would be one step further than any other defendant and would pose an essential question not yet asked in Germany or, better, actively avoided by applying a theory, whereby collective guilt does not extend to persons that did not directly participate. So in effect the court id hearing a case of a new category that would mean, if a conviction is returned that a much wider group was now considered criminal. That would be very interesting in a constitutional sense, as it would require resistance to crimes by the government from a very wide portion of the population.

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    Re: Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial

    He could've tried to flee without permission. Not saying this would've been easy or successful, but "just following orders" has long been refused as a defense

    As to whether his actions deserve a sentence, i don't know if i believe he never directly participated in killings. He sure participated in the apparatus, including theft of the victims

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    Re: Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial

    Quote Originally Posted by chromium View Post
    He could've tried to flee without permission. Not saying this would've been easy or successful, but "just following orders" has long been refused as a defense

    As to whether his actions deserve a sentence, i don't know if i believe he never directly participated in killings. He sure participated in the apparatus, including theft of the victims
    He admitted that and what he did funded the war effort, thereby getting more people killed.

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    Re: Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial

    Quote Originally Posted by joG View Post
    What is interesting is that he seems to have had very little to to with the actual cutting edge of the business and decided to volunteer for fighting duty to get away from the nastiness of camp duties. This means he was at arms length and not a weapon in hand or line of command perpetrator. This would be one step further than any other defendant and would pose an essential question not yet asked in Germany or, better, actively avoided by applying a theory, whereby collective guilt does not extend to persons that did not directly participate. So in effect the court id hearing a case of a new category that would mean, if a conviction is returned that a much wider group was now considered criminal. That would be very interesting in a constitutional sense, as it would require resistance to crimes by the government from a very wide portion of the population.
    From my viewpoint, the book-keepers, the train-schedulers, the lorry drivers, etc, are just as guilty as those pouring the Zyklon B pellets into the gas chamber shafts.

    They all served as facilitators and co-conspirators in a criminal enterprise.

    This is why getaway drivers are also guilty of bank robbery and whatever other crimes transpire inside even though they never entered the bank.


    Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet. -- Marine Corps General James 'Chaos' Mattis

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    Re: Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial

    Quote Originally Posted by Simpleχity View Post
    From my viewpoint, the book-keepers, the train-schedulers, the lorry drivers, etc, are just as guilty as those pouring the Zyklon B pellets into the gas chamber shafts.

    They all served as facilitators and co-conspirators in a criminal enterprise.

    This is why getaway drivers are also guilty of bank robbery and whatever other crimes transpire inside even though they never entered the bank.
    I agree with your viewpoint. The problem is that almost every German alive at that time participated to a certain extent. And every German alive today profited from the inheritance denied the slaves and many others whose lives and whose children's lives were destroyed. Now these inheritors point their fingers at us in moral rage, because we do this or that, that they think evil. What do you do?

    But this is not a German problem alone or even a problem of that time. It is one of every democracy run foul and every dictatorship. The numbers are huge comparatively of people that participated in one way or another. Afterwards there are just too many to usefully punish them and it does not end there. If it were a question of justice, well it would be bad enough for the legitimacy lost and the consequences thereof that you can see in to take our example Germany. But it is much more unpleasant as it is a precedence for all societies to note. It reduces the pressure on populations to resist and thus the probability of bad things happening.
    Last edited by joG; 04-22-15 at 06:44 AM.

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    Re: Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial

    Quote Originally Posted by joG View Post
    I agree with your viewpoint. The problem is that almost every German alive at that time participated to a certain extent. And every German alive today profited from the inheritance denied the slaves and many others whose lives and whose children's lives were destroyed. Now these inheritors point their fingers at us in moral rage, because we do this or that, that they think evil. What do you do?
    Of course all who participated in this process has a measure of culpability, not the least of which are thousands of far more guilty Nazi's that managed to escape serious penal punishment or the gallows. None the less, 'every German alive who profited' and those who 'inherited' any benefit must be vanishingly small. Anyone familiar with the post-war impoverishment, hunger and destitution of Germany, the millions of German refugees from Prussia and from what is now western Poland, the imposition of Communism, etc. left 'the inheritors' with little more than ash in their pockets.

    I suggest you see the movie "The Reader". While the story is about an illiterate former concentration camp guard who helped seal 300 prisoners in a burning church to prevent their escape (causing all their deaths), whatever the viewer thinks of her state of mind I found the reactions of the younger Germans portrayed to be the most intriguing. Their total incredulity that their own fathers and grand-fathers would have participated in such a horror, and the uncomprehending and pitiless contempt the young Germans had for their parent's/grandparents generational actions is almost shocking.

    Justice was cheated, as knowledge of the hundreds/thousands who escaped to South America and elsewhere should remind us. The best we can do is to make sure that we "never forget".
    Last edited by maxparrish; 04-22-15 at 09:01 PM.

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    Re: Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial

    Quote Originally Posted by Simpleχity View Post
    From my viewpoint, the book-keepers, the train-schedulers, the lorry drivers, etc, are just as guilty as those pouring the Zyklon B pellets into the gas chamber shafts.

    .
    What about the american pilots who killed millions of civilians by dropping bombs on cities?

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    Re: Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial

    Quote Originally Posted by TextDriversKill View Post
    What about the american pilots who killed millions of civilians by dropping bombs on cities?
    And remember- it was intentional that civilians were targeted- the Dresden firebombing and Tokyo are good examples of the Allies basically targeting women and children.
    Many Trump supporters have lots of problems, and those deplorables are bringing those problems to us. They’re racists. They’re misogynists. They’re islamophobic. They're xenophobes and homophobes. And some, I assume, are good people.

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    Re: Auschwitz bookkeeper admits "moral guilt" at Holocaust trial

    Quote Originally Posted by TextDriversKill View Post
    What about the american pilots who killed millions of civilians by dropping bombs on cities?
    Yes, or the japanese who took part in the nanking slaughter. As is clear, the victors in a conflict get to decide which of the defeated are guilty of 'war crimes.' If they weren't going to prosecute more than a handful of japanese officials, there's no chance any of their own would be guilty of atrocities.

    But some of us know better, fortunately

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