FRANKFURT (Aug. 15)
A public opinion poll on the attitude of West Germans towards the current trial here of former guards and officials of the Auschwitz death camp revealed today that two out of every four Germans surveyed had never heard of the trial. Among those who were aware of the proceedings, 39 per cent said they were opposed to it.
The trial, now entering its ninth month, began last December. It has heard 120 witnesses, many of whom came from Israel and other countries, relate stories of inhuman brutality, sadism and mass murder.
The results of the poll which was carried out by the Divo Institute here, showed that many of those interviewed who said they were against the trial, contended that the defendants were merely soldiers carrying out orders, and added that “it was best not to stir up the Nazi past.”
The Divo Institute said it had interviewed a representative cross-section of the populations of West Germany and West Berlin. Opposition to the Auschwitz trial was strongest among those in the 35-to-55 age group; while those between 25 and 35 were the best informed about the Nazi era. The institute, which frequently conducts polls for the Social Democratic Party, also reported that, since the Eichmann trial in 1961, the percentage of those Germans opposing war crimes trials of former Nazis has doubled.
Sixty more witnesses are scheduled to be heard by the Auschwitz trial, which expects to end its hearings by next January. The number of defendants is now 20, two having been dropped from the trial because of ill health.