British Holocaust survivors flying out to Germany to attend the trial of Auschwitz SS guard Oskar Groening this week said they were going “for those who can’t”.
Hungarian-born Ivor Perl, Lesley Kleinman and Susan Pollack, who all live in London, went to see the former Auschwitz accountant answer a charge of accessory to the murder of 300,000 people. He has fully admitted his role and his “moral guilt”.
Before travelling to the courthouse with her daughter on Wednesday, Pollack explained why she wanted to participate. “I don’t want to have any regrets afterwards, and because I want to speak for those who could not, whose lives were taken”, she said. “I have a moral duty to go, to keep their memory alive.”
Pollack, 84, who had heard never of Groening before she read about his trial, said: “I will try to contain my emotions. I will try my very best to suppress my feelings, to think about where we are today instead.”
The case has attracted widespread media attention. Two weeks ago, 81-year old co-plaintiff Eva Mozes Kor publicly forgave Groening, 93, and called for the trial to be stopped, despite losing 49 members of her family in the Holocaust.
Pollack, who speaks on behalf of the Holocaust Educational Trust, knew there would be mixed emotions, and reflected on her thoughts before the courthouse drama.
She said: “If I allow my feelings to rule over my head, what would I ask him? I would ask him, did you not think of me? How could you do that to those children huddled to their mothers? Do you never feel regret? But some of these questions can never be answered. How could they do what they did? How can you ever answer that?”
The sight of Groening in court will be the first time Pollack has come face-to-face with an Auschwitz guard, and ahead of that moment, she has been telling herself to keep her feelings in check.
“He’s had a very long, comfortable life, with a good job. Many thousands of them did. Do I hate him? No. Do I feel pain and sorrow? Yes. I can’t allow myself to hate. I’m too overwhelmed with my own grief. I tell myself be numb to him.”
She added: “Being there this week, it may make a small dent in anti-Semitism, it may give the information some meaning. That’s important. But you can’t just turn the page over. It just doesn’t disappear.”