When Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, 81, heard that the frail old man dubbed the “accountant of Auschwitz” had been found guilty for being an accessory to 300,000 murders and sentenced to four years in prison, she was “disappointed.”
“They want to use him as an example, fine,” she told BBC News. “I ask them to find him guilty and sentence him to community service.”
“His value is not sitting in jail at the age of 94,” she explained in an e-mail to the Guardian. “His value to society would be in speaking to students in person … so that every time he lectures he relives those experiences. As it is, in jail he doesn’t have to talk about it – he can just rot away.”
Kor made news months ago when she met Groening in a German courtroom and went in for a hug. She asked him to use his past experience to warn young neo-Nazis about the horrors of Fascism and racism. “You can tell them you were in Auschwitz, you were involved with the Nazi party, and it was a terrible thing,” she said had she told him.
Groening pulled her in and kissed her on the cheek.
That photograph was splashed across the news.
In 1944, Kor — then 10-year-old Eva Mozes — and her twin sister, Miriam, escaped the gas chambers and ovens only because they were wanted for genetic experiments carried out by notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, known as the “Angel of Death.”
Groening kept the books, but admitted he was “a cog” in the machine.
Groening went to trial earlier this year. He said he had seen Jews loaded into transport trains. He said he had seen a soldier lock them in a converted farm house and pour gasoline down a hatch. “The screams became louder and more desperate but after a short time they became quieter again,” he said.
“This is the only time I participated in a gassing,” he added, with one correction: “I don’t mean participated, I mean observed.”
After Groening’s sentencing, Kor said that although she thought he should be punished, she disagreed with the sentence — and made it known.
“I no longer carry any anger or hated toward anybody, and that is not because deserve it but I deserve to live free of it,” she told BBC News. “Once you don’t have animosity or anger toward them, you’re opening yourself up to a lot of other human emotions.
“I do not understand why nobody cares to endorse my gesture of kindness toward an old man or his gesture of love toward me.”