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Oskar Groening
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Military Personnel
    (June 10, 1921-March 9, 2018)
    Born in Nienburg, Germany
    SS junior squad leader
    Guard at Auschwitz (1942-44)
    In charge of personal property seized from arriving prisoners
    Counted and sorted currency taken from arrivals and sent it to Berlin
    Sent to a front-line unit (1944)
    Spent two years as a prisoner of war after Germany’s surrender (1945-47)
    Convicted of being an accessory to 300,000 murders and sentenced to four years in prison (July 15, 2015)
    Died while hospitalized before beginning his sentence
    Nicknamed ‘the Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’
    Even before joining the SS, he was an enthusiastic Nazi who participated in book burnings.
    He said he was astonished to learn of the mass killings at Auschwitz, but that after a few months it became ‘routine.’
    After witnessing another guard killing an abandoned infant by bashing its brains out against a truck, he complained to his superior – not about the killing as such, but that it ‘should be done within a certain framework.’
    At the time, he justified genocide by noting, ‘We were convinced by our world view that we had been betrayed... and that there was a great conspiracy of the Jews against us.’
    At his trial, he tried the traditional ‘I was a small cog in the gears’ defense. (Which, in accord with the tradition, failed.)
    After four decades of a quiet civilian life, he broke his silence about his experiences at Auschwitz in response to comments by Holocaust deniers.
    He said, ‘I saw everything. The gas chambers, the cremations, the selection process. One and a half million Jews were murdered in Auschwitz. I was there.’
    After his statements were printed in a neo-Nazi magazine, he was hounded by anonymous phone calls ‘from people who tried to prove that what I had seen with my own eyes was a big hallucination on my part because it hadn’t happened.’
    At his trial, he conceded, ‘For me, there’s no question that I share moral guilt.’
    After his sentencing, Eva Mozes Kor, an Auschwitz survivor who had testified at his trial, said, ‘My preference would have been to sentence him to community service by speaking out against neo-Nazis. I would like the court to prove to me, a survivor, how four years in jail will benefit anybody.’

Credit: C. Fishel

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