Former Auschwitz guard, 94: I’m sorry, I saw the slaughter but did nothing to stop it

A former SS sergeant has apologised to Nazi Holocaust survivors after he finally admitted in court that he served as an Auschwitz death camp guard. Reinhold Hanning, who is now 94, said he wanted to use his trial as an opportunity to put the record straight. Reading from a statement he took from his suit pocket, he told the court he regretted being part of a “criminal organization” that had killed so many people and caused such suffering. He added: “I’m ashamed that I knowingly let injustice happen and did nothing to oppose it.”

I want to tell you that I deeply regret having been part of a criminal organization that is responsible for the death of many innocent people, for the destruction of countless families, for misery, torment and suffering on the side of the victims and their relatives

Reinhold Hanning

Hanning, who arrived at the court in Detmold in a wheelchair, is charged with being an accessory to the murder of at least 170,000 people. He finally broke the silence he kept over the course of 12 two-hour hearings, which have heard powerful testimony from camp survivors. "I have remained silent for a long time, I have remained silent all of my life,“ he said. Earlier, his lawyer read a 22-page statement in which Hanning admitted having known about mass murder in the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. He said he was injured on the front line but his repeated requests to return to the fighting were turned down. A verdict is expected on May 27.

"I lost 35 family members, how can you apologize for that? I am not angry, I don’t want him to go to prison but he should say more for the sake of the young generation today because the historical truth is important

Leon Schwarzbaum, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor and co-plaintiff at the trial