This was originally published on Liberal America on May 1, 2016.
Former Auschwitz guard, 94-year-old Reinhold Hanning, has spoken out about his experiences at the death camp and is facing trial. He worked at the camp from 1942-1944, and he has been accused of being an accessory to the murder of over 170,000 people.
The prosecution has described Auschwitz as a “murder machine.” Over one million people were slaughtered there. Hanning has been accused of selecting prisoners. He had to look at them and decide if they went to work or if they went to the gas chamber. Hanning apologized to his victims and said:
“I’m ashamed that I knowingly let injustice happen and did nothing to oppose it.”
Here is an excerpt from the statement he read in court:
“I want to tell you that I deeply regret having been part of a criminal organisation that is responsible for the death of many innocent people, for the destruction of countless families, for misery, torment, and suffering on the side of the victims and their relatives.”
“…People were shot, gassed and burned. I could see how corpses were taken back and forth or moved out.”
Hanning is not charged with being directly involved in the killings, but prosecutors accuse him of facilitating them in his post as a guard.
There were a few former inmates at the trial to speak out against him. Half-Jewish Erna de Vries was nineteen when she was sent to Auschwitz. She was sent to a part of the camp where people were waiting to be gassed. Her life was spared because she is only half-Jewish. Vries said she had “mixed” feelings about seeing a former guard.
Justin Sonder was sixteen when he was sent to the camp. He was operated on without an anesthetic. They even painted a swastika on his knee with iodine.
When asked if Hanning should be put on trial, Sonder said that it was “absolutely right.” I agree, it is never too late to put these people on trial.