Oskar Groening, the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” was sentenced this week to 4 years in prison after standing trial for 300,000 counts of accessory to murder.
As a young 23 year old SS sergeant, Groening was tasked with counting the money and valuables of the Jews heading into the death camp and then sending them to Berlin.
The 4 year sentence has yet to be finalized as they have yet to determine whether or not he’ll be spending it in an actual prison or a home. Groening’s openness to discuss events and circumstances made him unlike most other Nazi guards however since he wouldn’t divulge names and specific actions, the court did not go easy on him.
When Groening first faced the court he did so humbly, saying:
“It is beyond question that I am morally complicit. This moral guilt I acknowledge here, before the victims, with regret and humility.”
In an interview in 2005 with Der Spiegel, Groening pleaded he was nothing more than a “cog in the gears,” rather than playing an active role of exterminating some of the over 1 million Jews that died at Auschwitz.
This does not hold water however to survivors. Gene Klein, a survivor of the notorious death camp said:
“My feeling is that people are saying, ‘Oh, he’s 93 years old, you know, poor old man, what’s going to happen to him?’ That’s not the way to look at it as far as I’m concerned,
This old man was 23 years old, 70 years ago. Now he was part of the SS, he probably joined the SS as a volunteer, he knew that the SS was involved in mass killings in every country that the Nazis overran in Europe.
And so just because he had a desk job, and he wasn’t one of those soldiers that threw the poison gas canisters into the gas chambers, it doesn’t make any difference. He was part of this machinery that was put together very, very smartly and very efficiently to kill as many Jews as possible. And not just Jews, but other people also that they didn’t think were good enough to live.”
More from CNN:
(CNN) A court in Germany sentenced former Nazi officer Oskar Groening, known as “the bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” to four years in prison Wednesday in what may be one of the last such trials, given the decades that have passed.
He was accused of counting the cash found in the belongings of new arrivals at the camp, where more than 1 million Jews died, and sending it to Nazi headquarters in Berlin.