Home > Germany, Holocaust~Shoah, Ukraine > Sobibor survivor tells what happened, but can’t identify Demjanjuk

Sobibor survivor tells what happened, but can’t identify Demjanjuk

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

MUNICH, Germany (WJC) — Thomas Blatt, 82, a survivor of the Sobibor death camp where Ivan Demjanjuk was allegedly employed as a guard by the Nazis, has given testimony at Demjanjuk’s trial in Munich. Blatt’s family was killed at Sobibor, and at the age of 15, Blatt was ordered to sort out the belongings of Jews sent to the gas chambers at the Nazi death camp.

A co-plaintiff in the case against Demjanjuk – who is charged with helping to murder 27,900 Jews in 1943 – Blatt was giving testimony for the first time. Prosecutors say Demjanjuk, 89, was a guard at Sobibor at the time Blatt was there.

“My dreams are so real. I cannot escape. I am still there,” Blatt told the court in a mixture of English and German. “We knew we would die, that we would be gassed.” He said he did not recognize Demjanjuk from his time at Sobibor. The defendent, lying on a bed in the court room, did not look at or respond to Blatt and pulled a baseball cap low over his face so his eyes were hidden.

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk fought in the Red Army before being captured by the Nazis. He is accused by prosecutors of working as a guard for the SS and helping them kill Jews at the camp. He denies a role in the Holocaust and his lawyers dispute he was at Sobibor.

Blatt said that if Demjanjuk was at Sobibor at the same time as him, he was a murderer. “There were only 17 SS soldiers in Sobibor at any one time. The Ukrainian guards carried out the killings. They pushed people into the gas chambers,” he told reporters.

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

  1. Katzpersky
    March 4, 2010 at 4:09 am

    In defending his decision to involuntarily cooperate with the Germans Demjaniuk cited starvation and terror against Soviet POWs in the Nazi camps on a daily basis and a fear of even more terror and life-threatening persecution by the NKVD henchmen in case of a successful escape from the POW camp and return to his homeland. There is no need to dispute a sad validity of the arguments behind this decision. Nevertheless, he still has to answer for his alleged criminal deeds before the court.

    Thomas Blatt survived Sobibor also thanks to a close involuntary cooperation with the camp’s German administration, albeit as an inmate of the camp. I do not have a moral capacity to make any judgment of their disputable decisions.

    However, it is not clear what was a justification and driving force for Thomas Blatt to voluntarily join the NKVD forces (known for its brutality as the Red Gestapo) immediately after liberation of the eastern Poland in 1944 by Soviets. This shameful period of his life is somehow not mentioned in his books and interviews, and perhaps in his application materials for the U.S. citizenship. Two of his roommates in Lublin and friends from Sobibor (Hersh Blank and Leon Feldhrendler), also joined NKVD forces and for their brutality and anti-Polish collaboration with Soviet occupants were executed in November 1944 by the Polish underground forces. Thomas Blatt survived by hiding among millions DPs in to the Western Poland and later – by immigration to Israel and the U.S.

    In conclusion, widely published, dramatic life stories of many Holocaust survivors still are covering many ugly secrets to be discovered.

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