Holocaust victims want justice at Demjanjuk trial

1st December 2009, Comments 0 comments

With all but a handful of Holocaust perpetrators now dead, 64 years after the end of the war, Demjanjuk’s is likely to be the last major Nazi trial of its kind.

Munich -- After a decades-long wait for justice, survivors of the Sobibor concentration camp and relatives of the tens of thousands killed there started queuing before dawn to get a chance to see John Demjanjuk's trial.

With all but a handful of Holocaust perpetrators now dead, 64 years after the end of the war, this is likely to be the last major Nazi trial of its kind.

Concentration camp survivor Robert Cohen, who lost his parents and his brothers at Sobibor, is one of those who wants justice from the Munich trial.

"If he was there, he killed more than 100 people per day -- per day! That would be the worst crime ever," Cohen, a gaunt 83-year-old from Amsterdam, told reporters.

The 89-year-old Demjanjuk, deported in May from the United States where he moved after World War II, is charged with assisting in the murder of 27,900 men, women and children while a guard at Sobibor in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943.

But Cohen, who survived more than two years in various camps and has his Auschwitz number tattooed on his lower arm -- 174708 -- still wants justice to be done after all these years.

"I am positive, I believe in justice," Cohen said.

Max Flam, 43 from Amsterdam, started queuing at 5.30 am clutching a sepia photograph of his grandparents, among 13 relatives who died at Sobibor.

"I don't mind what he gets, my goal is justice," Flam told AFP.

Thomas Blatt, 82, who was at Sobibor at roughly the same time that Demjanjuk was alleged to have been there, and who is to testify in January, said that whatever the punishment, it will not fit the crime.

"I don't want revenge against Demjanjuk, I just want him to say the truth," Blatt said. "If it were up to me I wouldn't even put him in jail. I don’t feel hate for him. There is no price he could pay for what he has done."

Rivka Bitterman, from Jerusalem, who will appear as a co-plaintiff, agreed: "I believe he will face justice on the other side. In this world there is no punishment that is fitting."

But she admitted feeling some trepidation as the long-awaited trial finally got under way.

"We are very, very excited, very nervous. This is hard for us as co-plaintiffs," she said. "My father was sent to Sobibor from Amsterdam and murdered there."

It is not the first time she has seen Demjanjuk, having been at his trial in Israel when he was sentenced to death in 1988 after being identified as being "Ivan the Terrible," a particularly sadistic guard at another camp, Treblinka.

But after five years on death row, Demjanjuk was freed when evidence surfaced proving Israel had the wrong man. Demjanjuk flew back to his home in Seven Hills, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, in business class, hoping to put his past behind him.

Prosecutors at the latest trial say they have an SS identity card bearing his name and transfer orders to Sobibor.

Richard Carter/AFP/Expatica

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