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Houston’s Holocaust Museum Looks At The Nazi War Crimes Trial

Oskar Gröning, a former SS guard at Auschwitz, is on trial as an accomplice to the murder of 300,000 Jews. The trial opened with Gröning admitting “moral guilt” for his actions.


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The town of Lüneberg, Germany, southeast of Hamburg, is hosting what is likely to be one of the last Nazi war crimes trials. Oskar Gröning is now on trial as an accomplice to murder — specifically, to the murder of 300,000 Jews — stemming from his time as an SS guard at Auschwitz between 1942 and 1944.

Mary Lee Webeck, director of education at Holocaust Museum Houston, has been following the trial closely.

“One of the things that’s so significant about Oskar’s trial is his public admission of the moral guilt,” Webeck says, “because that has happened so despairingly few times in the history of justice after the Holocaust.”

Gröning worked as a bank clerk before joining the SS. At Auschwitz, his job was collecting and sorting cash from new arrivals. But, as he admitted at the start of his trial in April, he witnessed the murder of prisoners attempting to escape, as well as a baby being beaten to death by a fellow guard.

Even so, Webeck says the outcome of the trial is far from certain.

“I think it’s very hard objectively to look at a 93-year-old person on trial, who has to come in with assistance and a walker and be lowered into his chair in the courtroom and now can’t even go to the courtroom because he’s so ill,” Webeck says. “You know, what does that mean when we’re trying to define justice for something that happened 70-some years ago?”

Gröning’s trial is expected to run through the end of July.