A former Auschwitz guard currently on trial told a German court Thursday that it was clear even during World War II that Jews were not expected to leave the extermination camp alive.
"I couldn't imagine that" happening, former SS Sgt. Oskar Groening, 93, told the court Thursday, the Associated Press reported, quoting the German press agency dpa.
Defendant Oskar Groening sits on the dock of the court in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. The 93-year-old former Auschwitz guard faces trial on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, in a case that will test the argument that anyone who served at a Nazi death camp was complicit in what happened there. (Julian Stratenschulte/Pool Photo via AP)
Groening faces 300,000 counts of accessory to murder during the time period between May and July 1944. During that period, the AP reported, 425,000 Hungarian Jews were sent in cattle cars to the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in Nazi-occupied Poland where they were stripped of their belongings and most were sent straight to the gas chambers.
The AP reported Wednesday that under the German legal system, pleas are not entered. Groening told the court Tuesday that he shared in the “moral guilt” but that it was up to the court to rule if he was guilty under the law.
Groening described how there were so many trains during this period, there was a bottleneck in moving the arriving Jews into the camp complex.
"The capacity of the gas chambers and the capacity of the crematoria were quite limited. Someone said that 5,000 people were processed in 24 hours but I didn't verify this. I didn't know," Groening told the court, according to the AP. "For the sake of order we waited until train 1 was entirely processed and finished."
Though Holocaust survivors have described the Auschwitz arrival as having been chaotic, with dogs barking and families immediately separated, Groening described it as orderly.
This undated photo made available by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, in Oswiecim, Poland, shows the former Auschwitz-Birkenau guard Oskar Groening as a young man in an SS uniform. (Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau via AP)
The AP reported that Groening’s main job at Auschwitz was to go through prisoners’ luggage and to collect and count money taken from the victims, for which the German press has named him the “Accountant of Auschwitz.” The stolen money was then sent to Berlin.
If convicted, Groening faces between three and 15 years in prison.
Survivor Eva Kor, 81, told the AP that her two older sisters and parents were taken straight to the gas chambers upon arrival.
Because she and her 10-year-old sister were twins, they were sent to be experimented on by the notorious camp doctor Josef Mengele, who conducted cruel medical studies of Jewish twins.
Kor is one of 60 Auschwitz survivors and their families who are co-plaintiffs in the trial.
She described her last moments with her mother.
"All I remember is her arms stretched out in despair as she was pulled away," Kor told the AP. "I never even got to say goodbye."