'Ukrainians guards took part in extermination'

At Demjanjuk trial, Holocaust survivor says Ukrainian guards outnumbered Nazis 10-to-1 at Sobibor camp.

By AP
January 20, 2010 18:59
2 minute read.
'Ukrainians guards took part in extermination'

demjanjuk 224. (photo credit: AP [file])

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

Ukrainian guards outnumbered Nazi SS men 10-to-one at the Sobibor death camp, but they fell strictly under the Germans' authority, a Jewish survivor testified Wednesday at the trial of John Demjanjuk.

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, an 89-year-old retired Ohio autoworker, is accused of serving as a low-level guard at the camp in occupied Poland and is charged with accessory to murder in 27,900 deaths. It is the first time a conviction has been sought against someone so low-ranking without proof of a specific offense. Demjanjuk rejects the charges, saying he never served in Sobibor or any other Nazi camp.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


Witness Thomas Blatt, 82, has told the Munich state court he did not remember Demjanjuk from Sobibor, where he was a prisoner in 1943. In his first day of testimony Tuesday, however, Blatt said that if Demjanjuk was there, he would have been involved in the extermination of Jews.

On Wednesday, he testified that the Ukrainians were an integral part of the Sobibor death camp, though he did not know details about how they operated.

"I didn't know a lot about them...," he said. "The Ukrainians were on one side of the process of murder, and I was a Jew on the other side."

When pressed by Demjanjuk's defense attorney Ulrich Busch, Blatt conceded that the 150 or so Ukrainians who acted as guards came under the authority of the approximately 15 German SS men at the camp.

"The German was God" at Sobibor, he testified.

JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:


Demjanjuk claims to be a victim of mistaken identity - a Red Army draftee from Ukraine captured in 1942.

He maintains he was himself held prisoner until joining the so-called Vlasov Army of anti-communist Soviet POWs and others, formed to fight with the Germans against the encroaching Soviets in the final months of the war.

Though Demjanjuk's defense maintains he was never at Sobibor, Busch also has argued that the Ukrainian guards had agreed to serve the Nazis only to escape likely death in POW camps, and that they would have been killed if they didn't follow orders.

As in previous sessions, Demjanjuk lay on a bed throughout the proceedings Wednesday morning, a baseball cap pulled down over his eyes. Demjanjuk - who suffers from several medical problems - has been declared fit to face trial, so long as court sessions are limited to two 90-minute sessions per day.

Blatt, who today lives in California, told the court of losing his mother, father and brother in Sobibor, shortly after the family was deported to the camp from their town in Poland in April 1943. Blatt was spared because he was selected to work in the camp.

He said it was hard to explain now what life there was like. He said if he had lost any family member before Sobibor, he would have "cried day and night." But after his parents and brother were killed, he "didn't cry at all."

"We were on a different planet," he said.

The trial continues later Wednesday. If convicted, Demjanjuk faces up to 15 years in prison.

Demjanjuk had his US citizenship revoked in 1981 after the Justice Department alleged he hid his past as the notorious Treblinka guard "Ivan the Terrible." He was extradited to Israel, where he was found guilty and sentenced to death in 1988, only to have the conviction overturned five years later as a case of mistaken identity.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Ryan Gosling
October 22, 2018
‘First Man’ gets lost in space, despite visual beauty

By JOSH AXELROD