Auschwitz trial having a healing effect - plaintiffs' attorney

2015-05-04 21:15
Holocaust survivor Mordechai Ronen is comforted by his son as he is overcome by emotion at the former Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. (Odd Andersen, AFP)

Holocaust survivor Mordechai Ronen is comforted by his son as he is overcome by emotion at the former Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland. (Odd Andersen, AFP)

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Lueneburg - A trial in Germany of a former SS member charged with being an accessory to murder at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp is having a healing effect on the witnesses who survived the Nazi camp, an attorney for survivors said.

"The plaintiffs appear to me to be completely freed, completely unburdened," Thomas Walther said after the first five days of the trial. "It is absolutely stunning to see how being able to testify becomes a source of power."

"It is quite obvious to see how the witnesses' relationship has developed to this Germany, which is so different from their memories," said Walther, who with his co-counsel, Cornelius Nestler, represents more than 50 of the over 60 plaintiffs in the trial of Oskar Groening in the northern city of Lueneburg.

"This is healing and freeing - not only through forgiveness but also through respect and openness," said the lawyer, whose clients consist of survivors as well as people born after WWII.

Groening, now 93, is accused of being an accessory in the murders of at least 300 000 people at the largest concentration camp run by the Nazis during WWII.

Groening is accused of helping hide the luggage brought by prisoners to the camp in what had been Polish territory conquered by Nazi Germany. He is also accused of counting the money found in their belongings and sending it to SS headquarters in Berlin.

His trial began April 21 with his admission that he shared moral guilt for the murders at the camp. The first witnesses described the transports of prisoners from Hungary and the atrocities committed at Auschwitz.

Walther said the sympathy and care given to his clients by the court has also helped the plaintiffs and stands in contrast to other Auschwitz trials.

"One of my clients remembered how terribly the Jewish witnesses were treated in earlier proceedings, and he initially had no intention of coming," the lawyer said.

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