Who was Oskar Groening?
Oskar Gröning is a German ex- SS junior squad leader. He was posted at Auschwitz concentration camp during the World War II. He was responsible for supervising the personal property of the prisoners, and counting and sorting the money taken from them. He was also privy to the genocides that went on in the concentration camp. He was transferred from Auschwitz to a combat unit later. Gröning was captured by the British when his unit surrendered. In due course, he was transferred to Britain as a war prisoner where he worked as a forced labourer. After his release, he started leading a normal life in Germany and never talked about his term in Auschwitz. However, after learning about the Holocaust Denial, Oskar Groening criticised the people who denied the genocide of Jews and refuted the idea that holocaust was a Jewish conspiracy. He confirmed his involvement in the holocaust but denied being an accomplice in the accounts given to BBC. However, his public statements exposed him to criminal prosecution. He was charged as an accessory to the murder of over 300,000 people. The trial began when Oskar Groening was 93 years old. This trial in Lüneburg, Germany ended with Groening being found guilty of assisting in genocides. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
Childhood & Early Life
Oskar Groening was born on 10 June, 1921 in Nienberg, Lower Saxony, Germany. He was the son of a textile worker and a proud nationalist. His grandfather was a soldier in the Duchy of Brunswick.
Groening grew up in a disciplined environment and was fascinated with the military from an early age.
In 1930s, he joined the Scharnhorst, a youth organisation in Stahlhelm.
In 1933, Groening joined the Hitler Youth, the youth organisation of the Nazi Party. He was influenced by the view that National Socialism would be beneficial for Germany.
In 1938, he graduated from high school and started working as a trainee bank clerk.
However, he, along with seven other clerks, was recruited in the German army as soon as World War II was declared.
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In 1940, Groening joined the Waffen-SS, an elite army unit as a SS salary administrator, despite his father’s reluctance.
Till 1942, he worked in this post until the desk jobs were given to injured veterans of the war.
Groening and his 22 colleagues were transferred to the commandment of Auschwitz where he was given responsibilities of handling the currencies of the deportees, sending them to Berlin and safekeeping the private properties of the prisoners.
Groening did not know about the ‘Final Solution’ initially but his desk job could not block him completely from the extermination processes.
He complained about the cruel killings of infants and prisoners inside the camp to his superior but his request for an organized framework was turned down twice.
In 1944, he was transferred to a front-line SS unit in the Ardennes.
On 10 June 1945, the unit surrendered to the British force and he was imprisoned in an old Nazi concentration camp.
In 1946, he was sent to Britain as a forced labourer where he apparently led a “very comfortable life”.
In 1947, he returned to Germany and started working in a glass factory. He later became a manager at this factory.
Oskar Groening was also elected as an honorary judge of industrial tribunal cases.
Views On Holocaust Denial
More than 40 years after the war, he publicly decried the people who said that the Jews were never taken into gas chambers or murdered. Groening maintained that he was innocent and not a defendant because he never volunteered in the mass murders. He says that despite not being a perpetrator, he felt guilt towards Jews.
Criminal Charges & Trials
In September 2014, Oskar Gröning was charged by state prosecutors with assistance to murder for his administrative role at Auschwitz. The accusation stated that he was responsible for the financial advancement of Nazi Germany and systematic killing of 300,000 Jewish people who were held at Auschwitz.
On 20 April 2015, the trial was held at Lüneburg Regional Court (Landgericht). In his opening statement, Groening apologised for his role at Auschwitz in 1944.
During the trial, many of the 60 'co-claimants' testified that prisoners at Auschwitz were starved, tortured and killed in gas chambers.
On 15 July 2015, Oskar Groening was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder and he was sentenced to four years of custody.
Groening had always been sensitive about the Auschwitz topic. Once, at the dinner table his father-in-law made a silly remark about Groening’s SS career. He reacted by banging his fist on the table and declaring, "This word and this connection are never ever to be mentioned again in my presence, otherwise I'll move out!"