Eyewitness in Australian Court Places War Crimes Suspect at Scene of Murder
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Eyewitness in Australian Court Places War Crimes Suspect at Scene of Murder

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An eyewitness has placed a war crimes suspect at the scene of the mass murder of Jews in the Ukrainian village of Gnivan in 1942.

Mikhail Raykis, whose family was among the Jews murdered, testified at a hearing that will determine whether Ukrainian-born Mikolay Berezowsky, a longtime resident of Adelaide, South Australia, will stand trial under Australia’s amended war crimes act.

Berezowsky is alleged to have been an officer in the Ukrainian police, known as the Schutzmannschaft, which carried out the Nazi policy of genocide,

Raykis, who was 11 at the time, said last week that he saw the accused and two other policemen beat a Jew already bloodied when he was handed over to them by Romanian authorities across the river.

He admitted under cross-examination that there are no other living witnesses to the episode.

Raykis, who came to Australia from Ukraine to testify, said the beating occurred a day after the 102 remaining Jews in Gnivan, mostly women and children, were forcibly marched to a mass grave in a nearby wood and murdered.

He said Berezowsky hurled loud abuse at the doomed villagers, calling them “parasites” and “prostitutes.”

Raykis said his mother, three sisters and a brother were executed. He said he escaped by hiding behind a door when a soldier seized his family.

Last year, Raykis led Australian investigators to the gravesite where the remains of more than 100 victims were exhumed, 60 of them women and 25 children under age 9. They were killed by bullets in the head or bludgeoning which fractured their skulls.

Raykis also testified that he saw Berezowsky with two German soldiers stopping Jews who had escaped execution and preventing them from crossing the nearby river to safety.

Berezowsky is the second Australian resident charged under the statute which allows Australian courts to try war crimes suspects.

The first was Ivan Polyukhovich, who was ordered to stand trial in South Australia’s Supreme Court July 6.

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