The indictment against the five female prison guards is read out during the second week of the trial. In 1944, they had been transferred from Auschwitz to a camp near Cracow. The camp had been run by a commandant, special troops, and other guards, but most did not survive a bombing raid and some, including the commandant, fled. Two prisoners, a mother and daughter, survived, and became the key witnesses in the trial against the five defendants. The daughter, who published a book about the camps, came to Germany to testify, and the court would be flying to Israel for the mother’s deposition.
This chapter briefly recounts the crimes in which Hanna and the other guards were complicit. Located in Poland, Auschwitz was one of the most infamous and deadly concentration camps run by the SS (the German military). Millions of Jews, Romani, and other minorities considered undesirable to the German state were systematically murdered by the means of gas chambers, starvation, forced labor, and death marches.
The two principal charges were that every month the guards sent out 60 women to be killed in Auschwitz in exchange for 60 new prisoners; and that the guards had locked hundreds of prisoners in a burning church the night of the bombing.
In learning that Hanna had been a guard at Auschwitz, Michael must now deal with the fact that she was complicit in the deaths of hundreds of innocents—all before she ever met Michael at all.