‘Book-keeper of Auschwitz’ in tears as survivor testifies


A Holocaust survivor’s testimony about the horror of Auschwitz at the trial of former camp guard Oskar Groening reduced the defendant to tears on Tuesday.

Mr Groening, 93, known as the “book-keeper of Auschwitz”, stands accused of being complicit in the deaths of 300,000 camp victims .

Kathleen Zahavi, 86, told the court how she lost 100 family members at Auschwitz and hoped the images he holds in his mind from the death camp, “will stay with you for the rest of your days.”

Mrs Zahavi lost her entire family at the death camp in occupied Poland. An estimated 1.2 million people were killed there.

Mr Groening is on trial for his role in collecting valuables taken from inmates who were killed.

According to reports he appeared visibly pained and shameful when Mrs Zahavi, who was born near Budapest, Hungary, gave evidence.

At the start of his trial Mr Groening had said that he felt “morally guilty” over his service in the camp, but not legally responsible as he had physically not harmed a single person.

But Mrs Zahavi, who lives in Canada, said: “You said you feel morally guilty but that is not enough. You volunteered freely for this duty. You knew what went on in Auschwitz

“I hope the images of what went on there will stay with you for the rest of your days. You were allowed in your freedom to grow old. My parents weren't allowed that.

“They were not at my wedding, my children never got to know their grandparents. Even though I lived, Herr Groening, I can say this: I was never as free as you.”

Mrs Zahavi is one of 49 witnesses who have travelled to give evidence in the case .

She said: “I am 86 and came here from Canada because it is the last thing I can do for my dead family and for everyone who died in the camp.

“One day, the gendarmes came to our house and told us to pack only what we absolutely needed and that we were going to a ghetto. I had a toothbrush and the clothes I stood up in.”

She told the court after three weeks in a ghetto her family was loaded on a train to Auschwitz. She said: “The conditions on the train were so horrible that many old people and children could not survive.

“There was a pail in the middle of the cattle car and we were told to use it as our washroom. We had very little water and no food. I remember being in that car for about 7-10 days. It was horrifying.”

Auschwitz survivor Ivor Perl, 83, who also lost his loved ones in the camp said: “Oskar, I do not want to call you Mr Groening.

“When I was asked to come here to testify I was afraid. I was afraid to come here and look at you.

“Now I'm sitting here and I see someone who is sorry. I'm also sorry that I was afraid that I was worried, I wasted energy. I had sleepless nights because of you.

“I am also, and especially, here due to the denial of the Holocaust. How can all countries do something like that? I hope that this process here makes it all somewhat tolerable.”

According to reporters, Mr Groening was unable to look at him.

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