And this is what the latest Nazi camp guard reportedly has said at his trial, before sentencing: Today I would like to apologize to those who went through the hell of this madness, as well as to their relatives. Something like this must never happen again.
I would like to stress again that I would never have voluntarily signed up to the SS or any other unit — especially not in a concentration camp. If I had seen an opportunity to remove myself from service, I would have done so.
He added that he only became aware of the “extent of the atrocities” upon hearing witness testimonies and reports after the war. The trial had “cost a lot of strength” from the 93-year old. Poor chap.
But this is what I would have wanted to hear from him:
This trial has been a harrowing and horrifying experience for me but I’m not saying that it’s undeserved. I’m even relieved that I don’t need to take my shame to the grave and that I now live in a country that rejects my youthful behavior most forcefully.
After the war, I managed to disregard it all. I rationalized that this had been a horrible time for everyone and that we’d better forget it as quickly as possible. And for many decades it worked. I rarely thought of the war. Even less so, of my complicity with genocide on the Jews and other mass murders perpetrated by the regime whose uniform I wore with pride.
But when I was getting older, my ability declined to ignore my feelings, thoughts, and memories. I tried to rationalize: I was only a young bloke. That I had little choice. That I didn’t even think that I had a choice. Nevertheless, I was implicated in the largest crime of the past Century.
Nothing can take away or erase my guilt. Even any legal conviction here pales in comparison to the moral guilt that I carry.
I hope that that from now on, we will never again see a return to a time in history in with young people would let themselves be used for such crimes, no matter how normal and decent they would be portrayed.
I will gladly accept any sentence given by this esteemed court. It will only be a token punishment compared to the real awfulness of my wartime behavior. I only hope that the verdict will not leave me in jail until I die.
But in any case, I want to say to the whole world that is now listening: History will write and remember all atrocities committed, no matter how normalized or hidden. It will record victims and perpetrators. Just make sure that you’re on the side of the victims and not of the perpetrators.
That’s what I would have wanted him to say. I mean, how come surviving victims are still haunted by their memories and he isn’t? He’s just troubled by the trial? Bad sign.
No matter how horrifically we acted, we can always move to the right side of history by voicing regret and encouragement for the next generations not to hate the innocent. As the German People, as-a-whole, has shown.