Breaking News Emails
LUENEBURG, Germany — A Holocaust survivor came face-to-face with a former member of the SS who guarded her at Auschwitz, the first time she had encountered a former Nazi since the end of World War II 70 years ago.
Susan Pollack, 84, a Hungarian-born Jew living in London, told the trial of Oscar Groening on Wednesday that from the moment she and her family arrived at the concentration camp in Poland, "terror seized my soul."
She was immediately separated from her mother, who was gassed, and her brother, who survived Auschwitz after being put to work shoveling the gassed bodies of Jews into the ovens.
Pollack gave evidence 15 feet from Groening, who sat, pale and frail, with his arms folded in front of him. She barely glanced at him, telling the trial: "We never looked at the guards... I was terrified of the guards in my soul."
She described the selection process of those Jews who would be killed, conducted by the notorious camp doctor Josef Mengele, "with a stick in his hand, this way or that." Pollack then gestured widely with one arm.
"I wasn't crying because all natural feelings had left me. ... We were worse than worms" to the Nazis, she said.
Groening is charged with being an accomplice to 300,000 murders during three months in 1944, when more than 130 transport trains arrived with Jews from Hungary. He admits seeing transports arrive but denies killing anyone or selecting Jews for death.
Earlier, the so-called Accountant of Auschwitz shuffled into the German court helped by two medical workers. He is now a gray-haired widower, but when he began work as a guard at Auschwitz, at 21, he was, by his own admission, an enthusiastic SS officer.
Groening faces up to 15 years in jail as an accessory to mass murder if convicted.
Pollack was watched in court by four other Holocaust survivors. Her voice cracked with emotion as she said: "More than 50 members of my family were murdered, including many children. ... My psychological recovery took a lifetime, and I'm not through with it yet."
Pollack, who has six grandchildren, returned to Auschwitz for the first time in January to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its liberation.
The memories of Auschwitz "will always live with me," Pollack told the trial, adding that her mission in giving evidence was "to warn against any form of tyranny or extreme racism ... to speak up in the name of humanity."
She survived not only Auschwitz but a death march to Bergen-Belsen in Germany as the Nazis forced their prisoners to retreat with them in the face of Russian advances.
There were perhaps thousands of Jews who set out on the walk, but many could not keep up and only a couple of hundred made it to Belsen.
When British troops liberated the camp, they spotted a body left for dead, twitching on the ground. It was the 13-year-old Susan Pollack, who later went to Sweden, Canada and Britain.
Pollack recounted how her brother had tried to reassure her after Hungary sided with Nazi Germany in the war, saying, "The Germans are so civilized and progressive."
"So, how was [the Holocaust] possible?" she asked in court.
Pollack repeated the question three times.