'Tell the truth', Auschwitz survivor urges accused in Nazi trials

Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:37am EDT
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BERLIN (Reuters) - A Holocaust survivor said on Tuesday that four suspects accused by German prosecutors of being accessory to murder at Auschwitz must have known of the mass killings taking place at the camp because of the "unbearable stench" of burning bodies.

Germany is holding what are likely to be its last trials linked to the Holocaust, in which more than six million people, mostly Jews, were killed by the Nazis.

Three men and one woman in their 90s are accused of being an accessory to the murder of hundreds of thousands of people at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

"I want to know what their motivation was, why so many joined in killing millions of people," 95-year-old Leon Schwarzbaum, a state witness at the trial of two of the suspects, told Reuters in an interview.

"I just hope they all talk eventually. I want to hear it out of their mouths, what they did and why. I want them to tell the truth," he said.

Schwarzbaum, who lost all of his 35 family members in the Holocaust, survived by working at a Siemens factory camp near the Auschwitz camp. After the war he briefly lived in the United States but then returned to Berlin where he married a German woman and opened an antique shop.

Images of the killings and the camp's horrors haunt him to this day, Schwarzbaum said.

He angrily dismissed claims by some of the accused that they had not been aware of the mass murders taking place.

"They lie. It's impossible not to have known what happened. You could smell the burning bodies. It was an unbearable stench, day and night, and not only there in the camp but across the entire area," Schwarzbaum said.   Continued...

Holocaust survivor and former prisoner at Auschwitz death camp Leon Schwarzbaum presents a newspaper with pictures of the former SS guard at the Auschwitz death camp Reinhold Hanning during an interview in Berlin, Germany, March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke