ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Oskar Groening's Case and Its Relevance in the Indian Context

Nazi war criminal Oskar Groening's case revolved around the question, could people who played only an "accessorial role" in the Nazi-ordered genocide, and had not actively killed any prisoner, still be held guilty of a crime? The case is pertinent in the current political climate in India.

Justice is relentless, they say. It can take a long time to catch up with you. In the case of the victims of Nazi crimes, the wheels of justice have moved at a frustratingly slow pace. The law finally caught up with the “book-keeper of Auschwitz” who diligently counted every note of currency be it Polish zlotys, Greek drachmas, French francs, Dutch guilders, Italian liras, confiscated from deportees to fill the coffers of the Nazi war regime. For the few remaining survivors of the concentration camps who faced him in court, the conviction of Oskar Groening to four years in prison (one year for every 75,000 murdered in Auschwitz) for his crimes was not the central issue. The crux was that he was brought to “trial was just, and a service to humanity” (Gene 2015). A statement from a group of Holocaust survivors and victims’ relatives said the pain of losing families at Auschwitz could not be alleviated by criminal proceedings or the words of the accused, “but it gives us satisfaction that now the perpetrators cannot evade prosecution as long as they live” (BBC News 2015).

The charges in Groening’s case relate to a period in 1944, when trains with approximately 4,37,000 prisoners from Hungary arrived in Auschwitz. Groening was on the ramp during the “selection process” of the prisoners and assisted in handling the deportees’ belongings; the selection involved segregating prisoners who were too sick or old to do slave labour. As a result, at least 3,00,000 were immediately murdered at the gas chambers in Auschwitz.

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