Oskar Groening trial: 'Accountant of Auschwitz' admits guilt in second statement to court

'I can only ask the Lord God for forgiveness,' the 94-year-old former SS sergeant told the court in Northern Germany

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The Independent Online

The ‘Accountant of Auschwitz’ has admitted guilt for his role in the Nazi machinery that sent millions to their deaths.

Oskar Gröning, charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, told the Lueneburg court, in northern Germany, that he was not entitled to ask for forgiveness from anyone but God.

It is the second time the 94-year-old, tasked at the notorious concentration camp with sorting through belongings confiscated from the murder inmates, has admitted his “moral” guilt since his trial started in April.

“I’ve consciously not asked for forgiveness for my guilt. Regarding the scale of what took place in Auschwitz and the crimes committed elsewhere, as far as I’m concerned I’m not entitled to such a request. I can only ask the Lord God for forgiveness,” he said in a statement read by his lawyer in court.

He added that hearing survivors’ stories had brought a new emotional impact to the Holocaust for him. “This trial has made clear that they had suffered their whole lives because of their experiences in Auschwitz and the loss of countless relatives,” he said.

“I am aware that my role in the prisoners' property department in Auschwitz has made me complicit in the Holocaust, even if my part in it was small.

“I have already acknowledged my guilt and I continue to do so,” he added.

However, the former SS sergeant maintained in his statement that he had participated in the notorious selection process only a handful of times, as well as emphasising his administrative role – and claimed he made several attempts to be transferred.

 

Mr Gröning’s statement was followed by a powerful testimony from survivor Irene Weiss, now a retired teacher living in Virginia, in the United States.

Mrs Weiss, staring directly at Mr Gröning sat just 20ft from her in court, said: “He has said that he does not consider himself a perpetrator but merely a small cog in the machine.

“But if he were sitting here today wearing his SS uniform, I would tremble, and all the horror that I experienced as a 13-year-old would return to me,” the Guardian reported. Ms Weiss lost both parents, four siblings and 13 cousins in the Holocaust.

More than a million people, the majority of them Jews from Eastern Europe, were murdered in the Auschwitz camp. In recent years a renewed effort has been made to track and bring to justice the individuals who staffed the camp. Camp survivor Susan Pollock, who now lives in the UK< referred to Mr Gröning as the "last Nazi" in May of this year ahead of the start of his trial.

Although the German system does not accept pleas, if convicted Mr Gröning faces three to 15 years in prison.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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