If ribs visible, you were candidate for crematorium, Auschwitz survivor tells Nazi trial

Fri Feb 12, 2016 11:06am EST
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By Elke Ahlswede

DETMOLD, Germany (Reuters) - Three survivors spoke on Friday of the smell of burnt bodies and piles of the dead at Nazi Germany's Auschwitz death camp, one of whose former guards stands accused of helping in the murder of at least 170,000 people.

"If your ribs were visible, you were a candidate for the crematorium," said Leon Schwarzbaum, a 94-year-old survivor who lost 35 family members during the Holocaust.

He was speaking at the trial of former guard Reinhold Hanning, also 94, who remained largely silent on the second day of his trial, showing no emotions as the survivors detailed their horrific experience.

Hanning, sounding weak, was heard only once in court when asked how he was doing by judge Anke Grudda. "Fine," he responded.

Dressed in the same brown tweed suit jacket as on Thursday, bespectacled Hanning - who was 20 in 1942 when he joined the camp as a guard - slowly walked into court where hearings are restricted to two hours given his age.

Defense lawyer Johannes Salmen said a written statement would be read out on behalf of Hanning at a later stage of the trial. He added that it was possible that Hanning would also give a statement.

Accused by the prosecutor's office in Dortmund as well as by 40 joint plaintiffs from Hungary, Israel, Canada, Britain, the United States and Germany, Hanning is said to have joined the SS forces voluntarily at the age of 18 in 1940.

Although Henning wasn't directly involved in any killings at the camp, prosecutors accuse him of expediting, or at least facilitating, the slaughter in his capacity as a guard at the camp where 1.2 million people, most of them Jews, were killed.   Continued...

Holocaust survivor and former prisoner at Auschwitz death camp Leon Schwarzbaum waits in the courtroom in Detmold, Germany, February 12, 2016 for the second day of the trial of Reinhold Hanning, a 94-year-old former guard at Auschwitz. REUTERS/Bernd Thissen/Pool