Auschwitz survivor, museum curator doesn’t want prison for former Nazi guard

Former SS officer Oskar Groening waits in a courtroom in Lueneburg, northern Germany, Wednesday July 8, 2015. German prosecutors sought a 3½-year prison sentence for the 94-year-old former SS sergeant who served at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, saying his role there made him an accessory to murder. (Christian Charisius/Pool Photo via AP)

 

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – One of the last major Holocaust trials comes to a conclusion.

On Wednesday a German court convicted a former Nazi guard of his crimes during World War II. The decision is creating strong emotions for a Terre Haute woman who is a Holocaust survivor.

Some 70 years after Eva Kor was liberated from Auschwitz she found herself reliving those dark moments that took place in 1944. Kor was called to testify during former Nazi guard Oskar Groening’s trial, a trial she believes was long overdue.

“I wish it would have been done 50 years ago, but its better later than never.”

In a candid moment during the trial the two embraced. The photo took social media by storm and captured hearts around the world.

“How can I reject the human gesture that meant everything opposite of what happened in Auschwitz,” said Kor when asked about the hug.

However, the German court was not as compassionate.

On Wednesday Groening was convicted of 300,000 counts of accessory to murder and given a four-year prison sentence. The four-year sentence exceeds the three-and-a-half years sought by the prosecution.

The court convicted Groening for his role at the camp following testimony that he presided over prisoners’ belongings and collected their money before they were marched to their death in gas chambers.

Kor told News 10 she is disappointed in the decision, “I think he is doing the right thing, but I don’t think at age 94 we need to teach the world that Germany is doing the right thing.”

Kor believes Groening should have served time years ago, but does not blame him for the lack of justice instead she blames Germany for not catching former Nazi’s sooner.

She strongly believes Groening’s time would be better served educating youth about the wrongdoings of the Nazi’s.

“A public service that I Eva Kor, survivor of Auschwitz, cannot do because the neo-Nazi’s don’t believe me but they do believe a Nazi guard from Auschwitz,” she said.

Groening known as the “book-keeper” admits keeping watch as thousands were led to the gas chambers, among them Kor’s family. He did not dispute the charges and admitted “moral guilt” for the atrocities.

His lawyers argued he should be acquitted because he did not actively facilitate mass murder.

“He’s accepting responsibility, he’s asking for forgiveness, and what more can you ask for from a 94 year old guy?” asked Kor.

Forgiveness is something Kor said she achieved decades ago.

“If I ever concentrated on the people that hurt me I would never have a smiling face in my life. Forgiveness has relieved me of the pain and burden and that is the only power I have left.”

Given Groening’s age it’s not clear is he will ultimately serve any time in prison. Both sides have a week to appeal the ruling.

News 10’s Lindsey Yates will have more tonight from their interview and hear why Kor chose to forgive Groening.

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