Statement to the Press from Counselors of Auschwitz-Survivors – April 20th, 2015

Legal Counsels Representing the Co-Plaintiffs

Attorney at Law Thomas Walther

Professor Cornelius Nestler

Attorney at Law Donat Ebert

Attorney at Law Günther Feld

Attorney at Law Manuel Mayer

Trial against Oskar Gröning before the Lüneburg District Court

We are the legal counsels of more than 50 Jewish co-plaintiffs. Their next of kin were murdered in Auschwitz in the summer of 1944. Almost all of our clients were selected for labor on the ramp and survived Auschwitz, death marches and other camps.

It is the hope for justice that brings the co-plaintiffs to these proceedings.

The accused Gröning will be tried for his participation in the murder of our clients’ parents and siblings as well as the extermination of their families. Seventy years have passed since then. Pain and loss, decades of despairing nightmares surrounding the hell of Auschwitz will be heard before the Lüneburg District Court in the voices of 14 of our clients who will give testimony in the trial.

The co-plaintiffs wish to bear witness, and thereby also make evident to the broader public, what the “Holocaust” has brought upon them individually as well as their families. The co-plaintiffs place great emphasis on having the opportunity to describe to the court the consequences that any participation in these murderous deeds produced for their own individual lives. Justice will be granted to the co-plaintiffs only if the trial does not stop at presenting numbers of murdered victims but also grants a voice to parents and siblings, bringing an image of these persons to life. In the courtroom, robbed human dignity can be restituted by way of respect for the co-plaintiffs.

The co-plaintiffs have decided to participate in these proceedings fully aware of the great strain this will put on them individually. They have taken this burden upon themselves, even in old age, because they believe they owe it to their murdered families to be recognized in a German court case.

The failure of the Criminal Justice System

These proceedings bring an end to a failure of justice that has lasted for almost 50 years. For this failure, two main reasons can be identified: The judiciary placed its focus on the guilt of individuals – of those who had “blood on their hands” – even in the case of the extermination of Jews in Auschwitz. And in the decades after the great Frankfurt Auschwitz trial of 1963 to 1965, there were repeated instances of the responsible prosecution authorities in Frankfurt simply dismissing criminal proceedings against SS members active at Auschwitz, in most cases, not for any supportable reason. This occurred with a plain disdain for the standards for culpable behavior that were and are valid in any “normal” criminal proceeding then as well as now.

For the co-plaintiffs, it is thus also of central concern to illuminate this history in the criminal proceeding against Oskar Gröning. Had the prosecutors not remained passive for decades, the co-plaintiffs would have had the opportunity much earlier, and not after reaching old age, to confront SS members with their responsibility for the murders of their next of kin.

Due to their advanced age and to ill health, many of the co-plaintiffs are no longer in a condition to travel to Lüneburg. The decades-long failure of justice has barred them from actively participating in the trial against their families’ murderers.

The prosecution in the criminal proceeding against Gröning is taking the right path. The extermination of the Jews from Hungary in the summer of 1944 was possible only because, through the industrially organized division of labor, many, including the accused, had a role in carrying out the mass murder. Any objection that the accused does not have “blood on his hands” is not legitimate. The machinery of extermination also relied on those who did not want to “get their hands dirty”, but who contributed their share to the mass murder. Following the court’s admission of the indictment, the co- plaintiffs have the rightful hope that the German judiciary finally finds the right standards for assessing which behavior on the part of SS members in Auschwitz constitutes co-responsibility for the murder of their next of kin.

The trial promises justice, albeit far too late.

Lüneburg, April 20th, 2015