Detmold – In the western German city of Detmold, a court case against a 94-year-old former SS soldier was recently opened on Thursday. Reinhold Hanning is being charged with 170,000 counts of accessory to murder between the years 1943 and 1944. Hanning, who was 20 years old in 1942, started serving as a Waffen SS guard at the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. The place where the Nazis executed more than 1.1 million Jews, Auschwitz, is now part of the evidence in this court case.
Reinhold Hanning entered the courtroom on Thursday in the city of Detmold, apparently in a good condition, as he walked into the court without the help of a cane and alertly listening to the accusations against him. Hanning declined to give an opening statement to the court, as no pleas are entered in the German system.
Former SS sergeant Reinhold Hanning maintains that he served in a part of the Auschwitz camp where no killings took place. Although, prosecutors claim that all guards helped the camp’s function, which was the killing of all Jew prisoners. Several Auschwitz survivors testified against Reinhold during the trial.
One witness, Leon Schwarzbaum, a 94-year-old survivor of Auschwitz, read a moving testimony regarding his own experiences. Leon then continued to make an emotional plea as he stared directly at former SS sergeant Hanning.
“Mr. Hanning, we are about the same age and we will both soon be before the highest court,” Schwarzbaum said anxiously. “Speak here about what you and your comrades did!”
According to researchers for court investigation purposes, Reinhold Hanning was the junior squad leader, meaning that he was responsible for guarding transports of people entering the Auschwitz death camp. The fact that this specific camp was the place were over 300,000 Hungarian Jews were gassed on arrival makes a compelling case against Hanning. It is quite difficult for any jury to believe someone could work there for years without noticing people getting killed on a daily basis.
Prosecutors argue that Reinhold was not only aware that the deportees were gassed but also that he was involved in the killings himself. Prosecutors also said Hanning had joined voluntarily to the Waffen SS at age 18. After fighting in Eastern Europe during the early years of the war, he was transferred to Auschwitz in January 1942.
Johannes Salmen, the attorney for Hanning’s case, said that his client acknowledges serving at the Auschwitz I, yet he denies serving at the Auschwitz II, where most of the 1.1 million of victims were gassed to death.
Source: Huffington Post