After already conducting more than 70 hours of interviews with Franz Stangl, former Commandant of Sobibor and Treblinka, author Gitta Sereny scheduled her final visit with Stangl for June 27, 1971.
For her final visit, Sereny determined that she must press Stangl, one final time, for an answer on the question of guilt.
"My conscience is clear about what I did, myself," he said, in the same stiffly spoken words he had used countless times at his trial, and in the past weeks, when we had always come back to this subject, over and over again.
But this time I said nothing.
He paused and waited, but the room remained silent.
"I have never intentionally hurt anyone, myself," he said, with a different, less incisive emphasis, and waited again—for a long time.
For the first time, in all these many days, I had given him no help. There was no more time.
He gripped the table with both hands as if he was holding onto it.
"But I was there," he said then, in a curiously dry and tired tone of resignation.
These few sentences had taken almost half an hour to pronounce.
"So, yes," he said finally, very quietly. “In reality, I share the guilt. Because my guilt . . . my guilt . . . only now in these talks . . . now that I have talked about it all for the first time . . ."
He had pronounced the words "my guilt"—but more than the words, the finality of it was in the sagging of his body, and on his face.
After more than a minute, he started again, a half-hearted attempt, in a dull voice. "My guilt," he said, "is that I am still here. That is my guilt.”
A few hours after Sereny's final interview with Stangl had concluded, Stangl, age 63, suffered a massive coronary and died.