Former Auschwitz guard apologizes to victims in court

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — A 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard currently on trial in Germany apologized to his victims in court.

Reinhold Hanning, a former Nazi SS officer on trial for being an accessory to the murder of 170,000 people, said Friday in court in the western German city of Detmold, that he is “ashamed that I knowingly let injustice happen and did nothing to oppose it.”

“I want to tell you that I deeply regret having been part of a criminal organization that is responsible for the death of many innocent people, for the destruction of countless families, for misery, torment and suffering on the side of the victims and their relatives,” Hanning said, reading from a written statement, according to Deutsche Welle. “I have remained silent for a long time. I have remained silent all of my life.”

It is the first time that Hanning spoke in court, over 12 sessions.


Holocaust survivor and co-plaintiff Leon Schwarzbaum said in court that he accepted Hanning’s apology, but could not forgive him. Schwarzbaum is one of 40 joint plaintiffs from Hungary, Israel, Canada, Britain, the United States and Germany.

Prosecutors said Hanning voluntarily joined the Waffen SS Death Head Unit at age 18, fighting in eastern Europe before being moved in January 1942 to Auschwitz, where he served until at least June 1944.

Hanning has denied participating in mass killings, but prosecutors argue that, as a guard, he helped facilitate the murders.

A verdict is expected on May 27. If found guilty Hanning could be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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