Former Nazi guard Oskar Groening, 94, asked for forgiveness on Wednesday upon testifying in his trial on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. Groening, dubbed the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” collected and tallied money from new prisoners arriving at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
“There was self-denial in me that today I find impossible to explain,” Groening said, the German news agency DPA reported.
“Perhaps it was also the convenience of obedience with which we were brought up, which allowed no contradiction. This indoctrinated obedience prevented registering the daily atrocities as such and rebelling against them,” he said, adding, “I can only ask my God for forgiveness.”
Also during the trial on Wednesday, Auschwitz survivor Irene Weiss, 84, recounted how she arrived to the death camp at age 13 and was immediately separated from most of her family. “A woman pointed to a chimney and said: ‘Do you see the smoke? There is your family,'” she said.
Weiss said she considers Groening more than just a “small cog in the machine.”
“To that 13-year-old, any person who wore that uniform in that place, represented terror and the depths to which humanity can sink, regardless of what function they performed,” she said.