DETMOLD, Germany – Excerpts from a 22-page typed statement by defendant Reinhold Hanning, a guard at the Auschwitz death camp, which was read out at his trial in Detmold state court on Friday:
Recovering from wounds suffered in combat in 1941:
"In this time I thought frequently about my comrades with whom I'd fought at the front... I always got along well with my comrades at the front; one helped the other out there. That really appealed to me as a young man."
On being sent to Auschwitz:
"I didn't give it any thought. I didn't know what Auschwitz was. I only knew I was being assigned to some kind of internal duty."
Working in Auschwitz:
"Nobody talked to us about it in the first days there, but if someone, like me, was there for a long time then one learned what was going on. People were shot, gassed and burned. I could see how corpses were taken back and forth or moved out. I could smell the burning bodies; I knew corpses were being burned."
"An atmosphere prevailed there that I can't describe today. One saw what was going on, but couldn't really talk with one's comrades about it. The situation was totally different than at the front. There you could talk with your comrades about anything. One never had to worry that if you told a comrade something he'd pass it along. In Auschwitz it was different. I didn't ever trust anyone there."
"I'm of the opinion that every member of the guard battalion knew what was going on. This didn't depend upon one's own particular service. Naturally some comrades were closer to it and others less close. With close to it, I mean close to the killing."
On manning a guard tower:
"During my service in the interior cordon area, I never experienced a prisoner trying to flee from the camp. In my opinion that would have been impossible because of the electric fence. The prisoners were also told that they shouldn't touch the fence. They were told that they'd immediately go up in flames."
On keeping silent about his past to his wife, children and grandchildren:
"Nobody in my family knew I'd served in Auschwitz. I just couldn't talk about it. I was ashamed. I always said I was involved in the Russian campaign and ended up as a prisoner of war."
"I want to say that it disturbs me deeply that I was part of such a criminal organization. I am ashamed that I saw injustice and never did anything about it and I apologize for my actions. I am very, very sorry."