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Oskar Groening, The Bookkeeper of Auschwitz, Was Finally Sentenced Today.

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Today Oskar Groening was sentenced by a German court to four years in prison.

Debate has swirled around the case from the start. The 94 year old former Auschwitz concentration camp clerk tried for his involvement with the killing of 300,000 Jews, claims only moral guilt. According to him, he only did his job and collected money and valuables from prisoners arriving on transports. But the prosecution has also accused him of being on “ramp duty” at Auschwitz, allegedly processing prisoners before deciding who would be sent directly to the gas chambers.

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Some of the most interesting debate surrounds the Holocaust survivors who are for and against forgiving Mr. Groening. On one side we have survivor Irene Weiss, 84, who told the court she could not forgive Groening.

“He has said that he does not consider himself a perpetrator but merely a small cog in the machine,” she said. “But if he were sitting here today wearing his SS uniform, I would tremble and all the horror that I experienced as a 13-year-old would return to me.”

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On the other side is Eva Kor, who made a point of hugging Mr. Groening and telling him she forgave him just before she gave her testimony against him. Mrs. Kor has been criticised by other victims and their families for her public forgiveness. ‘They called me a traitor,’ she said.

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Kor, one of two twin sisters who survived Josef Mengele’s horrific experiments, explained: ‘As long as we understand my forgiveness that the victim has a right to be free, you cannot be free from what was done to you unless you remove from your shoulder the daily burden of pain and anger and forgive the Nazis – not because they deserve it, but because I deserve it.”

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When I was in Germany recently, at the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, I noticed a graph at an exhibit at the incredible museum there. It shows that 3,360 female guards and German civilian nurses worked at the camp and only 77 were prosecuted. Of 1,000 male guards only 9 stood trial.

A jury has found Oskar Groening guilty and he may spend however many years he has left in jail. What about all the others who never came forward? At least Mr. Groening finally put himself before the court, however late, to oppose Holocaust deniers and bring awareness to the issue.