Muenster (Germany) – A 94-year-old World War II SS guard broke his silence during his complicity to murder trial in Germany to apologise for not having taken action to stop injustice.
Prosecutors charge that Reinhold Hanning was a member of the SS “Totenkopf” (Death’s Head) Division and that he was stationed at the Nazi regime’s Auschwitz death camp in occupied Poland between early 1943 and June 1944.
“The charge sheet alleges that, in his capacity as guard, Hanning was complicit in multiple murders at the camp.
“Primarily of Jews brought in by train from all over occupied Europe, but also of Poles, Roma, Sinti, homosexuals and Soviet prisoners of war,’’ the prosecutor said.
Hanning did not speak when his trial started in February, but that changed on Friday.
“I am truly sorry, I am ashamed that I stood by and watched injustice occur and did nothing to stop it, ’’ he said in court.
He added that he regretted being part of a criminal organisation that was responsible for the death of many innocent people and for the destruction of countless families.
Hanning’s comments came after his defence attorney read a 23-page personal statement from Hanning about his youth and time in Auschwitz.
In the statement, he said he was aware of the mass murders that occurred at Auschwitz, but added that he saw no way to get off the career path that led him to being a guard at Auschwitz.
“I was silent a long time. I was silent my whole life,’’ he said.
Hanning however was accused of complicity in no less than 170,000 deaths between January 1943 and June 1944. (dpa/NAN)