Bookkeeper of Auschwitz says he can only ask God for forgiveness

Former SS officer and Auschwitz bookkeeper Oskar Groening says he can only ask God for forgiveness in a German court case where he stands accused of being an accessory to mass murder.

LUENEBURG, GERMANY (JULY 1, 2015) (REUTERS) – A former bookkeeper at Auschwitz who is accused of assisting in the mass murder of 300,000 people told a German court on Wednesday (July 1) that could only ask God to forgive him as he was not entitled to ask this of the victims of the Holocaust.

Oskar Groening, 94, did not kill anyone himself while working as a clerk at the notorious Nazi death camp but prosecutors say his role made him a part of the machinery that allowed the killing to take place.

“I can only ask my God for forgiveness,” Groening said in a statement read out by one of his lawyers at what is likely to be one of the last big Holocaust trials in Germany.

On his first day in court back in April Groening said that he felt morally guilty for his work at Auschwitz but that it was up to the court to decide whether or not he was legally guilty.

Groening’s lawyer, Hans Holtermann, told reporters that accounts given by the victims and their families had left a strong impression on the former SS officer.

“In his statement he said he couldn’t ask for forgiveness because for him, the crimes committed at Auschwitz were on such a scale that he can’t expect either the victims or their families to even think about the question of forgiveness,” Holtermann said.

During his time at Auschwitz, Groening was tasked with collecting the belongings of deportees after they arrived at the camp by train and had been put through a selection process that resulted in many being sent directly to the gas chambers.

Irene Weisz was one of the Jews who went through that selection process in 1944 and was chosen for forced labour at Auschwitz. She said she was disappointed with what she had heard from Groening.

“I would have liked to have heard a truer confession and explanation,” she told reporters outside the court building.

“I would have liked to have asked him questions – how could you not have been aware when you actually saw what (…) your contribution, what results it had? So it was rather neutral,” she said.