Judith Kalman: Final statement for the Trial of Oskar Groening, July 8, 2015
I would like to thank this court for giving me the opportunity to address it once again.
It has been a truly valuable experience for me to tell the story of my six year-old half-sister Eva Edit Weinberger, who died in Auschwitz during the Hungarian Operation, and to say how her death and the deaths of my parents’ relatives in Auschwitz affected their lives and also mine. A court proceeding such as this is neither too late, nor too small an effort, if it can make a difference to survivors of the Holocaust and their children. I do not wish to suggest, however, that the wrongs perpetrated by the agents of the Final Solution can ever be put right, or that justice can ever be found, for the innocent people who lost their lives to that evil policy.
I think this trial is important in two ways. It puts faces to the numbers tattooed on arms, faces to the survivors who had the super human task of rebuilding their lives after losing everything and in many cases everybody. Part of this trial’s great value is to witness further the suffering of innocent people at the hands of the Nazi state. But perhaps more importantly, this trial puts a face to one of the perpetrators of the Final Solution. A policy is meaningless until it is enacted, and those who carry it out are individuals with names and faces as well. Too many perpetrators of the Final Solution have been allowed the privilege of anonymity. Putting a face such as Mr. Groening’s to even one of them demonstrates that a policy of murder can only be carried out by individuals.
Mr. Groening, by his admitted actions, helped to make a policy of genocide devastatingly effective. He facilitated the flow of confiscated monies and valuables, which helped to finance the German war effort and the enforcement of the Final Solution. He knew that the monies came from people who to quote his words, “would not need them anymore” because they would be put to death. He had witnessed the brutal murder of a baby and he understood that the purpose of Auschwitz-Birkenau was to implement the policy of exterminating Jews as well as many others, particularly during the Hungarian Operation when he had numerous occasions to stand guard on the ramp.
I am not trained in the law, but it is my understanding that the purpose of this court is not to determine relative guilt. The question is not whether Mr. Groening was more or less guilty than others of assisting murder during his years at Aushwitz-Birkenau. Nor is the question, has Mr. Groening changed his mind about whether or not his actions in those years were criminal, or whether or not he feels sorry about them. My understanding is that the purpose of this trial is to determine whether or not he was an accomplice to the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews. Did he knowingly participate in that process, and by his actions did he enable it? A verdict of guilty, in my opinion, is called for by Mr. Groening’s own admissions. He claims that although his actions are to be condemned by the values of today, at the time his actions conformed to the values of that period. The Nazi government took steps to keep their citizens in the dark about the Final Solution for the precise reason that even given the racist values of the time, they might have risen up against such a barbarous policy. Instead the Nazis entrusted the execution of this policy to a special organization, the SS, to which Mr. Groening belonged. He carried out his orders not only because of the racist values of the time, but also because he personally believed in the necessity of the Final Solution and willingly joined the organization that most exemplified the spirit of Naziism. He then participated in the administration of activities that helped further this cause.
The point of this trial I believe, is to show that having a hand in genocide at any level is a criminal act. Genocide, sanctioned by the state or not is always murder, and to take part in it, to enable its execution in any way, as Mr. Groening did, is to act as an accomplice to murder.
I hope the verdict of this court puts the face and name of a perpetrator of the Final Solution—Oskar Groening—into the national record.