Oskar Gröning, 94, a former SS soldier at Auschwitz, was convicted by a German court of colluding in the mass murder of 300 Hungarian Jews and sentenced to four years in prison. Many people and news outlets, including The New York Times, are calling Gröning’s trial “to be among the last chances to bring justice for the Holocaust.”
Gröning, assigned to Auschwitz from September, 1942, to October, 1944, to seize cash and valuables from arriving prisoners, is guilty. We’re not questioning his culpability. But as Judge Franz Kompisch intimated in his 75-minute speech, Gröning’s sentence symbolizes Germany’s failure to prosecute thousands of perpetrators who received light sentences or didn’t even get a slap on the wrist after the war.
According to the Times, “For decades, the German legal system made it difficult to prosecute former SS members and camp guards if there was no direct evidence linking them to the mass killings.” Thousands returned home to their families, built successful lives and died in their sleep.
The vast majority are long dead or dying now. Gröning will be gone soon enough. There is no turning back time, no way to retrieve the unjust. We are left with bitter wounds and improbable hope: “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.” Or, let it be done in Heaven.
Copyright © 2015 by the Intermountain Jewish News