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June 1, 2015

The Oskar Gröning trial exposes the banality of evil that was the Holocaust

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 8:21 am

A news article in The Daily Beast, which you can read in full here, starts off with this quote:

The trial of the SS bookkeeper from Auschwitz exposes not only the banality but the bean-counting that was integral to the Holocaust.

The term “banality of evil” was a term made famous by Hannah Arendt, who reported on the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Now the term is being used to describe the crime committed by Oscar Gröning, who counted the money taken from the Jews at Auschwitz.

Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau where Oskar Groening  was collecting  the luggage

Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau where Oskar Groening was collecting the luggage

This quote is from the news article:

Shortly after he arrived, Gröning was assigned to supervise the luggage collection from incoming transports. Gröning, responsible for counting the money and shipping it to Berlin headquarters, has spoken at the trial about his impressions: “You would be surprised to know with how many valuables the Jews arrived there.” As testimony from survivors makes clear, they had brought as much of their wealth as they could in the deluded hope they might thus save their lives.

Gröning’s crime was that he counted the money that the Jews had brought with them in the hope that they might be able to buy their way out a death camp.

But that was not the worst crime that Oskar committed.

This quote from the article describes his worst crime at Auschwitz.

He says, “there were people who made themselves comfortable with silk sheets to sleep in… Whatever the Jews brought with them.” Gröning soon learned to spot who had money and who did not. “With the travelling Poles there was nothing to be found,” he recalled, “but the Hungarian, we knew, had big bacon.”

Can you believe this? Oskar Gröning admits that he stole silk sheets from the luggage of the rich Hungarian Jews, and slept on those sheets himself. For that crime, he deserves life without parole, but because of his advanced age, he will probably not serve any prison time for this great crime.

But forget all that. This quote from the article reveals the worst crimes at Auschwitz:

In another example that demonstrates his incapacity to contextualize, Gröning told Fuchs [the prosecuting attorney] how he was helping fellow SS men find escaped prisoners when he arrived at a barracks. There he witnessed an SS man throwing Zyklon B, the gas used for mass killing, down a chute. Inside he heard cries that became louder until suddenly they stopped. When Fuchs asked him why the death of a baby bothered him, but not the many in the gas chambers, Gröning explained: “For me, it was no different from what was happening at the front. What happened in Auschwitz, I thought was right. That’s what I was taught from the age of ten onward.” Only having to witness the excesses, the bashing to death of an infant, was too much for him. That’s why he repeatedly asked for the transfer.

Did you catch that? Besides witnessing the bashing of a baby to death, Oskar also witnessed an SS man throwing Zyklon-B into a barracks building to disinfect the building. The Nazis were trying to save lives by using Zyklon-B to kill the lice that spread typhus.

This quote is also from the news article:

The trial of the SS bookkeeper from Auschwitz exposes not only the banality but the bean-counting that was integral to the Holocaust.

Week after week the German court reveals in graphic detail the smoothly run murder machinery behind “the final solution,” the Nazi effort to exterminate Europe’s Jews.

End of Story.

“—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

[John Keats Ode to a Grecian Urn]