News & Politics

94-Year-Old Auschwitz Guard Convicted as Accessory to Murder

(Bernd Thissen/Pool Photo via AP)

Via the Associated Press:

A 94-year-old former SS sergeant was found guilty Friday of 170,000 counts of accessory to murder and sentenced to five years in prison for serving as an Auschwitz guard, in a verdict that survivors from the Nazi death camp hailed as a long overdue victory.

Reinhold Hanning, sitting in a wheelchair, listened attentively but showed no reaction as Presiding Judge Anke Grudda read the ruling in state court in Detmold, Germany.

She said Hanning was a cog in a “perfectly functioning machinery” of destruction, helping operate the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland where some 1.1 million people, primarily Jews, were killed.

“You were in Auschwitz for two and a half years and performed an important function,” she said. “You were part of a criminal organization and took part in criminal activity in Auschwitz,” she said.

Auschwitz survivor Hedy Bohm, who came from Toronto to testify at the trial and for the verdict, said she was “grateful and pleased by this justice finally after 70 years.”

“It is my dream to be in Germany, in a German court, with German judges acknowledging the Holocaust,” the 88-year-old said.

Bohm was one of four survivors present for the verdict, who also joined the trial as co-plaintiffs as allowed under German law. Overall, about a dozen survivors testified during the four- month trial, and 58 survivors or their relatives joined as co-plaintiffs.

In her ruling, Grudda said much of their testimony put to rest any criticism that the crimes of the Nazis were too far in the past to prosecute today.

“Anyone who had the opportunity to hear the testimony of the co-plaintiffs can answer the question of importance of such a trial,” she said.

Generally, the defense for these elderly Nazis who are brought to trial is two-pronged, involving a plea for mercy because of the defendant’s advanced age while also claiming that said defendant had duties peripheral to the horror and therefore should not be held accountable. This judge easily demolished both of those approaches.

Revenge may be best when served cold, but justice isn’t revenge. It’s too bad this monster wasn’t brought to justice sooner, but his conviction will hopefully serve as a reminder of something that should never be forgotten lest it be repeated.