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Sobibor survivor testifies at Demjanjuk trial

AFP · 19 Jan 2010, 17:34

Published: 19 Jan 2010 17:34 GMT+01:00

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"I go there in my dreams. They are so real. In them I am still there," said Thomas Blatt, 82, whose parents and brother were among the 250,000 people estimated to have perished there during World War II.

"I can't get it out of my head. This is the price I paid for getting out." He told the court in Munich that he was unable to place Demjanjuk, 89, at the camp in occupied Poland, but that "only Ukrainians like Mr. Demjanjuk guarded us".

"The Ukrainians were always there, they were the most important personnel in Sobibor," Blatt said. "Without them, the death factory wouldn't have functioned ... The Trawnikis (foreign guards) were worse than the Germans."

"Lots of Ukrainians ran away, they were able to run away ... He (Demjanjuk) was free to go. I had a death sentence."

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk was deported from the United States last May and has been on trial since November 30, accused of being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews during his alleged time at Sobibor in 1943.

There are no living witnesses able to positively identify Demjanjuk, but the prosecution says it has an SS identity card proving he was at the Trawniki training camp for guards and that he was transferred to Sobibor.

Prosecution lawyers are using testimony from survivors to prove that if Demjanjuk was a guard at the camp, then he would have played an active role in the mass killing that took place.

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"It was 65 years ago. That is a long time. My memory isn't that good now," said German-born Blatt, who now lives in California, but that he remembered being faced with death "every second". "I can't remember my mother's face any more, or my father's."

Demjanjuk, whose family says he is gravely ill and who again appeared in court on a stretcher Tuesday, denies the charges but has so far declined to address the court. The trial, likely to be the last major case dealing with war crimes during the Nazi regime, is due to last until at least May.

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Your comments about this article

21:25 January 19, 2010 by -GD-
And THIS is called evidence?

Rambling hearsay from a biased professional victim and an ID card that was shown to be a KGB/OSI forgery in 1993 when they claimed he was Ivan the Terrible from Treblinka does not constitute forensic evidence.

It does show the lengths they will go to impose their religious dogmas on a conquered people.

This is a travesty and a soviet show trial.

Germany should be flying the flag of the DDR and enjoy it's despotism without the hypocracy of claiming to be a free society.
23:23 January 19, 2010 by wxman
So now it begins. May all those involved in this travesty burn in that place they all think this poor man belongs. Taken prisoner from his Ukraine home and forced to work at this camp under threat to his family's lives is awful. Despicable! The German citizens who permitted this outrage 70 years ago are the ones who belong on trial; not an innocent foreigner who, himself, was a victim of the NAZI regime.
07:04 January 20, 2010 by snorge
Unfortunately, this poor guy can't be much of a witness against Demjanjuk. Not to belittle what happened or exonerate the perpetrators but if Mr Blatt is the best witness they have, then they waited too long to put Demjanjuk on trial.
10:59 January 20, 2010 by Celeon
Regarding Mr. Demjanjuk, well what you think of him can basically only be based on your own opinion.

He claims that he was threatened into the job, ok. This makes him one of about ONE MILLION soviet citizens that collaborated with the third Reich during ww2 with 200.000 of them joining police forces that all claim they were no volunteers. Right.

People being threatened into joining the SS "Help groups of the willing" was not the usual case, it was the exception. Just as an example : Mr. Demjanjuk took the SS oath at the SS auxiliary camp Trawniki. Proofs in form of files exist for that.

If you threaten someone into a job, would you demand him to take a oath? ;-)

What would be the point of that?

Thats as if you would aim a rifle at a u.s POW , force him to speak out an oath that he will not return to his unit nor continue to fight in the war once you've set him free then give him his rifle back and turn your back at him. :-D

The majority of the "Hilfswilligen" volunteered to escape the conditions in the POW camps. If you blame them for that, well thats once again a question of personal opinion about what they did afterwards. What they participated in and what not.

They did a variety of jobs reaching from construction work like building trenches and fortifactions, over police duties to paramilitary activities like counter guerillia operations against soviet partisans. Whatever it was, it is direct aid of the enemy.

There was also the "Russian Liberation Army" that went into battle against their own country's army. These people were anti-soviet or at least anti- Stalin volunteers. You would not hand weapons over to anyone else than that right?

Demjanjuk joined not one but both organisations.

That does not exactly support the claim of his "unwillingless" but rather points to someone with a opinion. It is once again no proof for the things he is accused of in this trial but it puts his whole "i was forced" story into a new light.

To make it short :

Is there enough proof to convict him? No there isnt. I would let him go.

Do i believe him? No. Not a single word.

I think he is a liar, a spineless person and a collaborator and i think he joined the SS out of nothing less but gaining personal advantages.

I dont know if he was or is a anti-semite but i seriously doubt that he was or is a honest and upright man.

He became a traitor by joining the Hilfgruppe, and that out of pure selfishness , he was volunteer member of a SS help group, indeed guarded the camp at Sobibor and he had no bigger problem doing that for aslong as it was advantageous for himself.

He joined the Russian Liberation Army by his own will and he made the whole "i was forced and i also was never at Sobibor" story up because he was and is a cowardly opportunist that has no problem to do whatever is necessary to survive. No matter what it is.
15:30 January 20, 2010 by dbert4
What? Demjanjuk was in a German prisioner of war camp after being captured fighting for the Russian army. To became a guard in the Nazi internment system was indeed for personal advantage, survival. Generally I can't fault him for that, depending on how well he did the job.

Since there isn't any evidence to suggest that he did it too well, leave the old man alone.
20:41 January 20, 2010 by wxman
@Celeon: "If you threaten someone into a job, would you demand him to take a oath?"

Yes you would, precisely for this very reason. The SS wanted to tie these unfortunates to them forever. Knowing that even if/when they lose the war, they have the last laugh. They knew such oaths would damn them by those such as you.
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