The death of a former Auschwitz guard days before his trial in Germany has dashed the hopes of two elderly Jewish survivors of Nazi rule who wanted to see justice for their parents, who perished while the guard was on duty at the death camp.
Israel Loewenstein, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor, and Henry Foner, a 83-year-old chemist, spoke at their homes in Israel a day before news of the death of Ernst Tremmel, the former guard, emerged.
They had hoped Tremmel would face justice late in his life.
“But then again we don’t know if he would have even told the truth about Auschwitz — many of the accused don’t, after all,” Mr Loewenstein said yesterday after learning of Tremmel’s death.
German courts are hearing two other Auschwitz cases.
The trials of 95-year-old Hubert Zafke, a former Auschwitz paramedic, and of Reinhold Hanning, 94, a former guard at the death camp, have already started.
Both have remained silent on the accusations so far.
“It’s a good thing [Germany] is doing it, but it doesn’t touch my heart somehow,” said Mr Foner, who was evacuated from Germany to Britain with other Jewish children in 1939 as part of a Jewish initiative, said at his Jerusalem home.
He had hoped to see justice done in the case of Tremmel, but said: “There can never be closure. Closure to me is meaningless — you can’t get back what has been taken.”
Tremmel was a member of the Nazi SS guard team at the death camp in occupied Poland from November 1942 to June 1943. His trial had been scheduled to start on April 13, but a court spokesman said he died at the age of 93.
Although Tremmel was not directly involved in the mass killings at Auschwitz, German prosecutors said he had helped in the murder of at least 1,075 people in eight months at the death camp.
Tremmel’s platoon was regularly charged with overseeing the camp’s ‘selection process’, vetting new arrivals for forced labour or to be killed in gas chambers.
Loewenstein, who survived the Holocaust in forced labour camps, remembered the selection process as he arrived at the death camp in March 1943, at the age of 18.
“We came to Auschwitz in the middle of the night after four days on a train without food,” he recalled, from his home in Yad Hana, a former kibbutz in northern Israel.
“Suddenly, the doors were torn open, headlights were blazing, dogs were barking and we heard the guards yell: ‘Get out! Get out!’ ”
From the 100 people Mr Loewenstein arrived with in Auschwitz, only 17 survived.
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