He sits there in a wheelchair, surrounded by police. Other than being confined to this device, a once-over by me deems him healthy. Is he faking it? Maybe. His head down the entire time, the two hours fly by. Quickly. Too quickly.
As soon as I open my mouth to speak, it seems the hours allotted to this has all but disappeared.
It’s March 2016.
I’m in Germany, attending the trial of Reinhold Hanning, a guard at Auschwitz Birkenau. It’s the second Nazi War Crimes trial I have been asked to participate in as an eyewitness, and the first where I have been physically present. It was one I had no qualms flying halfway across the world to attend.
Unlike the limits the court has placed on Hanning (only two hours of trials a day because of his age), I’ve traveled more than 6,000 miles via two airplanes and an eight-hour drive to get there so this man, this criminal, is not inconvenienced.
Because it is my obligation. My duty to see that my words are heard. That this criminal is punished for the part he played in the execution of six million souls during the Holocaust.
I would go anywhere in the world, no matter how long it would take, to see that this man is convicted.
With such a short amount of time for the trial to take place each day, it is hard to be able to truly convey what I need to while I’m there. The first speaker went over her given time, and by the time I was able to speak, there were only 40 minutes remaining. Fortunately, they gave me an additional 30 minutes. But, that’s nowhere near enough time to share my story and my thoughts as to why this man needs to be convicted.
DO I THINK THIS MAN IS GUILTY?
Yes. Absolutely. He was a guard, and yet he claims he was unaware of the gas chambers … that he had no idea this was going on.
Of course he did! Every person there knew it. It was impossible to ignore the ashes being spewed or not question where the trainloads of people disappeared to. He was involved directly in killing Jews. He, and others like him, took pleasure in killing us. We weren’t people to them. We were the equivalent of roaches. They killed blindly. With no remorse. I cannot imagine how they were able to go home to their families at night and enjoy their own children without thinking of us.
People like him, and others, shouldn’t be exempt in their age or health or because they were not leaders at the camps. Many of these guards, if not all of them, killed at their own discretion.
I appreciate that even though this trial is taking place at the end of his life, that it is taking place. It feels good to know that he –and others — aren’t going to get away with it completely. To me, it’s better late than never. And, there is never a statute of limitations for killing a person.
Do I hate him?
No. Too many years have passed. I have gone through too much. I have shed too many tears in my life over the astronomical losses myself and others have endured. I lost my loving family. To me, he isn’t worthy of any kind of emotions. When I look at him, I look down. I think to myself that he deserves whatever he gets. Even then, it’s not enough.
I do know I have not forgiven him. I never, ever will forgive the perpetrators of the Holocaust — any of them. It isn’t up to me to forgive them. It is up to those dear, departed ones, and obviously, they cannot forgive. Personally, I cannot forgive that these people took away my family and all of the things they cost me.
HOW CAN YOU HELP
Today, I know more than ever, it is up to us, especially our youth, to make sure that this hatred doesn’t spread again. It’s the main reason behind I-SHOUT-OUT, ZACHOR’s anti-hate youth movement. What would the world be like if we could have 6 million SHOUT-OUT’S to stand up for people against hate and to serve as the voice of 6 million that were silenced?
While my words will soon only remain via documentation, others have the opportunity to make their voices heard for years to come.
Many people ask me how they, as an individual can make an impact. Look at what I’ve done. My words have made an impact. They will hopefully lead to the conviction of this murdering criminal and finally let some souls rest in peace.
Words are powerful. Spreading the right words can change everything. To SHOUT-OUT, please visit our website and write on the wall, then share it with your friends on Facebook. Help make sure that my words — and yours– aren’t lost.
A FINAL NOTE
While I was in Germany, I was treated very well by everyone. There was so much kindness and respect. As I was about to leave the city where the trial was being held, I wanted a small memento to remember this experience, but I didn’t have time to stop at a gift shop or anything.
Our last stop before the airport happened to be brunch with my team of attorneys. As we left the restaurant, one of the attorneys closed the door behind him and the bronze doorknob fell off. Unconsciously, he slipped the knob in his pocket.
As we were saying our final “goodbye” to each other, he reached into his pocket and handed me the doorknob. My souvenir.
I’m sitting here, at my home, writing this post. With the brass door handle beside me.This doorknob represents one door closing in my life, and another opening filled with hope and inspiration.
To read more about the trial, please visit our News & Current Events page
To learn more about I-SHOUT-OUT, please click here
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