Posts Tagged ‘Auschwitz’

Oskar Groening trial: Auschwitz survivor subjected to Nazi medical experiments demands answers

April 23rd, 2015

Ms Kor gave a chilling account of her ordeal at the hands of Josef Mengele, the doctor dubbed the Angel of Death who experimented on humans in the notorious death camp.

She said she and her sister Miriam only survived because Mengele was particularly interested in twins, and that within minutes of arriving at Auschwitz the rest of her family were gassed.

She said Mengele and four other doctors came to see her one day after she had undergone a series of injections and was suffering from high fever.

“Mengele looked at my fever chart and laughed sarcastically and said: ‘Too bad. She is so young and she has only two weeks to live’,” Ms Kor told the court in the German town of Lueneburg.

“If I died they would have killed Miriam with an injection to the heart. Mengele would then have carried out a comparative autopsy,” said Ms Kor, who now lives in the US.

She somehow survived, as did her sister. But Miriam, who died in 1993, suffered from decades of kidney problems and later cancer which may have been linked to the Auschwitz experiments.

“I want to know what injections we were given,” Ms Kor told Groening, who impassively listened to her 40-minute address to the court.

It appeared to be a rhetorical question as Groening is not known to have participated in the medical experiments but was instead responsible for inspecting the luggage of arriving prisoners and sending any money found to Berlin to fund the Nazi war effort.

That job led the German media to dub him the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz.”

On Wednesday he described in detail how cattle cars full of Jews were brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the people stripped of their belongings and then most led directly into gas chambers.

So many trains were arriving that often two would have to wait with closed doors as the first was “processed,” Groening said.

Thomas Walther, the lawyer representing several co-plaintiffs, told the Telegraph that three more Britons were now being represented by him, bringing the total of British co-plaintiffs to six.

The trial was moved to a larger venue after the local courtroom was deemed to small. It was adjourned at noon on Wednesday to clear the Ritterakademie venue for a play entitled Guter Sex ist Teuer (Good Sex is Expensive).


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Germany charges 94-year-old former medic at Auschwitz with 3,600 counts of accessory to murder

February 23rd, 2015

Hilde Michnia who has lived undisturbed in the suburbs of Hamburg for nearly five decades who now uses a walking frame is under investigation for allegedly forcing women prisoners on a death march from the Grossen-Rosen concentration camp, during which 1,400 died.

The other man was a former SS guard who helped to choose which prisoners were strong enough for forced labour and which should be immediately gassed. He is being charged with 170,000 counts of accessory to murder.

The cases are part of an initiative, begun in 2013, that recommended 30 people to be prosecuted for their involvement in the Holocaust.

“There is no statue of limitations on murder,” said Andreas Brendel, the prosecutor behind the charges against the unnamed 93-year-old man..

“We still have the victims and the families of victims. For them, it is very important that a German criminal process takes place and the guilt of the offender is determined.”

But critics said the three defendants were only junior SS members, who played a minor role, and are only being prosecuted in lieu of more senior perpetrators who have now passed away.

Of the 6,500 former SS members who served at Auschwitz and survived the war, only 49 have ever been convicted by a German court.

A further 700 were tried and convicted in Polish courts, including the notorious camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, who was sentenced to death and hanged in 1947. But thousands have escaped justice.

Neither Mr Groening nor Ms Michnia have sought to hide their pasts, and indeed may have incriminated themselves with frank interviews to the media.

Although he always denied personal responsibility for what happened at Auschwitz, Mr Groening spent years confronting Holocaust deniers and speaking out about the horrors he witnessed there.

“I heard a baby crying,” he told Spiegel magazine in 2005. “The child was lying on the ramp, wrapped in rags. A mother had left it behind, perhaps because she knew women with infants were sent to the gas chambers immediately.

“I saw another SS soldier grab the baby by the legs. The crying bothered him. He smashed the baby’s head against the iron side of a truck until it was silent.”

Ms Michnia appeared in a recent Irish documentary in which Tomi Reichental, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen, attempted to interview her about her time there.

In the course of the documentary, Ms Michnia admitted taking part in the death march.

She may have thought she was safe from further prosecution because she served a year in prison at the end of the way after being found guilty of mistreating prisoners at a British military trial.

So few of those responsible for the genocide of Europe’s Jews have been held to account in postwar Germany that the German writer and Holocaust survivor Ralph Giordano described it as a “second guilt”.

But in 2011 a German court found John Demjanjuk, a Soviet prisoner-of-war who volunteered as an SS guard, guilty of being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor extermination camp.

When Thomas Walther, a government official tasked with investigating Nazi crimes, sought to bring charges against Demjanjuk, his colleagues laughed.

But the case overturned years of legal precedent in the German courts that only the senior Nazi leadership could be held responsible for the crimes of the Holocaust. For the first time, anyone who had been a guard at a death camp could be held guilty.

After the judgement, there was a scramble by prosecutors to open new cases against surviving Nazis.

In 2013, investigations were announced against 30 former SS members who served at Auschwitz. Many have since died or been ruled too ill to stand trial.


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Nazi Auschwitz camp officer, 93, to face trial over 300,000 deaths

February 3rd, 2015

For this reason, he was known as the “bookkeeper” of Auschwitz.

The accused also helped remove the luggage of victims so it was not seen by new arrivals, thus covering up the traces of mass killing, according to the prosecutors.

They said the defendant was aware that the predominantly Jewish prisoners deemed unfit to work “were murdered directly after their arrival in the gas chambers of Auschwitz”.

Groening told German daily Bild in 2005 that he regretted working at Auschwitz, saying he still heard the screams from the gas chamber decades later.

“I was ashamed for decades and I am still ashamed today,” said Groening, who was employed from the age of 21 at the camp, which was liberated 70 years ago last week.

“Not of my acts, because I never killed anyone. But I offered my aid. I was a cog in the killing machine that eliminated millions of innocent people.”

The German office investigating Nazi war crimes sent files on 30 former Auschwitz personnel to state prosecutors in 2013 with a recommendation to bring charges against them.

The renewed drive to bring to justice the last surviving perpetrators of the Holocaust follows a 2011 landmark court ruling.

For more than 60 years German courts had only prosecuted Nazi war criminals if evidence showed they had personally committed atrocities.

But in 2011 a Munich court sentenced John Demjanjuk to five years in prison for complicity in the extermination of Jews at the Sobibor camp, where he had served as a guard, establishing that all former camp guards can be tried.

About 1.1 million people, mostly European Jews, perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau, operated by the Nazis from 1940 until it was liberated by Soviet forces on January 27, 1945.


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Holocaust Memorial Day: How Auschwitz was remembered

January 27th, 2015

Remembering the horror of Auschwitz 70 years on

Participants also included the presidents of Germany and Austria, the perpetrator nations that have spent decades atoning for their sins, as well as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, a sign of Poland’s strong support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.

Auschwitz survivor Halina Birenbaum sounded a warning to all present, saying: “If nobody stops it, this Auschwitz Birkenau evil, it lingers and its re-born into growing terror, in anti-semitism and racism.”

Another survivor, Roman Kent, became emotional as he issued a plea to world leaders to remember the atrocities and fight for tolerance.

“We do not want our past to be our children’s future,” he said to applause, fighting back tears.

And president of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder warned of a new wave of anti-semitism, saying: “Jews are targeted in Europe once again because they are Jews.”

Holocaust survivors recall life in death camps


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Holocaust Memorial Day: remembering the horror of Auschwitz 70 years on

January 26th, 2015

The site was also the death place for many people who did not fit into the Nazis’ view of their world. Poles, lesbians, homosexuals and the disabled were amongst those also killed here.

Over one and a half million people were killed at Auschwitz, including women and children

The infamous sign, made by a prisoner, was erected by the Nazis after the Auschwitz barracks were converted into a labour camp to house Polish resistance fighters in 1940. Auschwitz was later expanded into a vast death camp


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Watch: Holocaust survivor recalls life after Auschwitz

January 26th, 2015

70 years later, as the world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Radil is among the dwindling population of survivors who was actually at Auschwitz, the most vivid symbol of Nazi cruelty, when the terror finally ended.

He said that he got through the nightmare thanks to a tremendous will to survive and an intense focus on returning home.

“Everyone wanted to survive and those who did asked themselves, ‘what do we do now?’ Your main and only goal was survival, so you had to look for another one,” he said.

“For me, it was to go home. But I didn’t know what or who I would find there. I knew that most of the people were murdered.

“So what really is home? It’s not a city, it is a family, but I knew the family would not be complete.”

In fact, only his father was still alive.

Radil, who has written a book about his life called “All Alone in Auschwitz at 14,” has also warned of a repetition of the kind of horror the Holocaust brought.

“It might be somewhere else, it may not concern Jews,” he said.

“It might be some different type of holocaust but when you have people that are unsatisfied, frustrated, who lack a lot and have no goal, and someone comes and provides them with a goal, some sort of goal, they can unite in hatred.”


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Germany charges 93-year-old over 300,000 Auschwitz murders

September 16th, 2014

Prosecutors said the accused was aware that the predominantly Jewish prisoners deemed unfit to work “were murdered directly after their arrival in the gas chambers of Auschwitz”.

A regional court must now decide whether the accused will go on trial.

The German office investigating Nazi war crimes last year sent files on 30 former Auschwitz personnel to state prosecutors with a recommendation to bring charges against them.

The renewed drive to bring to justice the last surviving perpetrators of the Holocaust follows a 2011 landmark court ruling.

For more than 60 years German courts had only prosecuted Nazi war criminals if evidence showed they had personally committed atrocities.

But in 2011 a Munich court sentenced John Demjanjuk to five years in prison for complicity in the extermination of Jews at the Sobibor camp, where he had served as a guard, establishing that all former camp guards can be tried.

More than one million people, mostly European Jews, perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau, operated by the Nazis from 1940 until it was liberated by Russian forces on January 27, 1945.


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Swimming in Auschwitz, PBS America, review: ‘harrowing’

July 9th, 2014

The antithesis of any notion of care was explored in Swimming in Auschwitz (PBS America) in which six women, all teenagers at the time, spoke of their experiences there. I am glad to say it was more harrowing than the suspiciously jaunty title suggested. (It referred to a hot summer day when one of the women in the camp on the way to her labour jumped into a deserted outdoor pool used by the Nazi guards, without being caught.) I don’t mean that Jon Kean’s film belonged to the horror-voyeuristic genre of concentration camp documentaries. It is simply that there should be no understating the black evil behind the picture built up by the mosaic of the six women’s testimonies. After watching it, my night was broken by a nightmare. It is a film anyone who can should see, but no one should be forced to.

I won’t heap up details – the three-day journey during which children died in a cattle truck with no food, water or lavatories, the lice, the shaven heads, the nakedness, the starvation, the cruelty, the experimentation, the constant fear. With what could these young women resist? Something human was all they could seek, some “purpose”. “To live for my mother,” one said. “That I will tell after,” said another.

Dehumanisation was a word used several times: they had been left numb and friendless. It is hard to be good in a hellish place. “I’m not saying we were angels,” one of the women, Erika Jakoby, said, “but I wouldn’t steal anybody’s food.” This plain statement actually reflects a degree of goodness that I couldn’t imagine emulating.

When another of the survivors spoke briefly of a man who secretly gave her three raw potatoes, I shed tears. Those are the kind of tears that some feel-good film could invite. But other tears welled up too, I found: tears of anguish at the things done there. They were definitely feel-bad. Perhaps it is human to feel very bad about our fellow humans too, sometimes.


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Auschwitz museum hit by thefts as visitors remove ‘souvenirs’ from Nazi death camp

May 6th, 2014

“This is shocking,” he said. “This isn’t really vandalism because vandalism is something you do to a bus stop. This is barbarism.”

The museum’s operators say the size of the camp makes stopping crime difficult. Auschwitz-Birkenau covers over 200 hectares and contains a 150 buildings, and Mr Cywinski said despite the best efforts of staff it is impossible to “monitor the entire camp” and eradicate all theft and vandalism.

Poland’s culture ministry, which is responsible for the museum, said it opposed the installation of CCTV systems given the specific environment of the camp.

“How would you feel if you visited Asuchwitz-Birkenau barracks and noticed that there were two cameras monitoring every item,” asked Malogorzata Omilanowska, deputy culture minister. “How would we be able to maintain the authenticity of the camp?”

Mr Cywinski said the only long-term solution was education, but others have called for harsher legal punishments for anybody caught vandalising or stealing from the camp.

But Bogdan Bartnikowski, a former Auschwitz prisoner, said if people really knew what the camp was like, they would think twice about vandalism.

“If they had been there and feared they would be leaving the next day via the chimney, then they would not be so eager to scratch their name onto a bunk,” he said.


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