Former auschwitz guard breaks silence in trial

Former auschwitz guard breaks silence in trial

In the auschwitz trial in detmold, former SS guard reinhold hanning has broken his silence. "I am ashamed that I let injustice happen and did nothing to stop it," said the 94-year-old in a personal statement.

"I am sincerely sorry."He deeply regrets having belonged to a criminal organization responsible for the death of many innocent people and the destruction of countless families.

The 94-year-old former SS man from lage in north rhine-westphalia is charged with aiding and abetting in at least 170,000 murders. The prosecution accuses him of having been part of the extermination machinery in his role as a guard at the auschwitz concentration camp.

Until the thirteenth day of the trial, hanning had remained silent in court. The man in the wheelchair read the apology from a piece of paper.

Before that, his defenders had read out a 23-page personal account of his youth and his deployment at auschwitz. In it, the defendant admits to having known about the mass murders. At the same time, he paints the picture of a rather apolitical man who was unable to defend himself against his conscription and later guard duty.

So his stepmother had urged him to enlist in the SS. He was initially deployed in france and later on the eastern front, his lawyer johannes salmen recounted. Near kiev he had been wounded and therefore had been transferred to "internal service to auschwitz. At first he did not know what was happening there. "But if you were there for a long time, as i was, then you also got to know what was going on there," his defender quoted him as saying. "People were shot, gassed and burned to death."

As a member of the guard battalion, he had to make sure that none of the prisoners escaped. However, no one has ever tried to do this. "We had immediately used the firearm for this case"."The relationship among the comrades was marked by distrust, he described. Twice he had unsuccessfully applied for a transfer to the front.

In auschwitz, it was "made quite clear" to the soldiers that they had to function. "If i remember correctly, there was also no doubt that – should you refuse – you had worse to fear." he had tried to suppress this time until the indictment. "Auschwitz was a nightmare. I wish I had never been there," concluded the statement.

Many concentration camp survivors and their relatives are also following the trial as secondary campers. One of them, leon schwarzbaum, exchanged himself after the apology. "This is not enough for me. He has talked about so many things," said the 95-year-old from berlin. "It may be that he is a different person today, but there can be no excuse for what happened."

Lawyer cornelius nestler also described the declaration as "dark and lacking in content". It does not say at what time hanning did what in auschwitz. Nevertheless, an apology should be respected. "The fact that mr. Hanning is finally facing up to his responsibility after such a long period of silence shows just how meaningful such criminal proceedings still are," said nestler.

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