Saturday, June 18, 2016

Last Nazi trial: Holocaust survivors won’t forget goodbyes, experiments and stench of burning flesh

DETMOLD, Germany — The Jews of Hungary would be the last to be murdered by the Nazis, but their genocide would come at an unprecedented rate.

From May to July 1944, more than 430,000 Hungarian Jews were rounded up and deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in German-occupied Poland.

They had been told they were being “resettled.” Instead, more than 300,000 were sent directly to the gas chambers. And when there were too many victims to process in their killing factory of poison gas, the Nazis herded their prisoners to the edge of flaming pits and shot them.

One of the 8,000 guards on duty during this period was former SS Sgt. Reinhold Hanning. For decades, Germany’s justice system couldn’t be bothered with prosecuting such lower-ranking officers. But in recent years, after pressure from jurists like retired judge Thomas Walther, they changed their legal strategy and finally began to hold these guards responsible for supporting a system where victims were systematically murdered through execution or starvation.

More than 70 years later, Hanning, now 94, was put on trial in February as an accessory to the murder of more than 170,000 Jews. On Friday, the widower was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. Due to his advanced age, he’s not expected to serve any time in custody.

Three survivors of the “Hungarian Operation,” who now live in Toronto, joined the state’s case against Hanning and travelled to Germany to testify against him earlier this year. It wasn’t important that they didn’t remember him specifically — the court wanted to know how SS men like him destroyed their families.

In her verdict, Judge Anke Grudda chastised her country for taking so long to bring ex-Nazis like Hanning to justice.  (more...)


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