The trial of Oskar Gröning

Oskar Gröning, a 93-year-old former SS guard at Auschwitz, went on trial in Germany yesterday, charged with being accessory to murder of at least 300,000 prisoners. Over a million people were murdered at Auschwitz, most of them Jewish & primarily in gas chambers. Fifty-five survivors & victims’ relatives are plaintiffs in the case.

Gröning does not deny witnessing the mass killings; in fact, he came to prominence refuting holocaust deniers, saying “I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria. I saw the open fires. I was on the ramp when the selections [for the gas chambers] took place.” He didn’t march them to their deaths in the gas chambers but prosecutors claim he accounted for their confiscated money & belongings. Close enough to the crime for prosecution.

Putting aside the legal difficulties of prosecuting him or the value of sticking a man on the threshold of death in prison, this case exposes the failure to prosecute Nazis who worked at concentration camps or served fascism in other capacities. One historian claims only 49 of 6,500 SS members who worked at Auschwitz were ever convicted & most sources blame the German judiciary for that. Of course Germany was occupied after the war & the political, economic, & legal affairs of the country were administered by the US, British, French, & Soviet armies.

The US occupation would give us a clue as to why so many Nazis walked away scot-free. It’s an open secret & an absolute abomination that the US military hired hundreds of Nazi scientists & doctors. Many of them were the psychos involved in human experimentation, responsible for developing chemical & biological warfare, the ones who proposed putting nuclear bombs on rockets, & guilty of war crimes. Does this partially explain affinities between Nazi ideology, the Pentagon & US militarism?

The US military spirited about 1,600 Nazis out of Germany, many with false papers, & gave them US citizenship. They put Nazis like Wernher von Braun, a leading figure in the Nazi rocket program, in charge of NASA, the new US space program. Herr von Braun got all sorts of accolades in his life, including from the Nazi regime & the president of the US.

Old man or not, Gröning probably should spend time in jail but there are a whole raft of others who should be exposed even if they’re too dead to prosecute. Eisenhower & Truman would be first among them.

There is a really cheery side to the prosecution of Gröning–who is two years older than Henry Kissinger. Time may not yet have run out to corner that warty old decrepit war monster & bring him to justice. The question of who will have prosecutorial jurisdiction out of the millions clamoring for justice remains open.

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