MUNICH, Germany (JTA) — Dutch Jews who lost parents and siblings to the gas chambers of Sobibor testified in the war crimes trial against John Demjanjuk.
Tuesday’s testimony, during the second day of the trial in Munich, followed the official reading of charges against Demjanjuk, 89, who is accused of being an accessory to the murder of 29,700 Jews at the death camp in Poland in 1943.
Chief Prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz said the murder of tens of thousands of European Jews at Sobibor could be accomplished only with the assistance of brutal, SS-trained Trawniki guards, including Demjanjuk.
During the proceedings, Demjanjuk lay before the court on a hospital gurney.
Rudolf Salomon, 70, of Amsterdam, choked back tears as he told the court how he learned of his mother’s death.
“It was 1946 or 1947 when my father said he was going to find a new mother for me,” he said.
Salomon later saw a letter his mother had thrown from the deportation train.
David van Huiden of Amsterdam was 12 when he said goodbye to his parents and sister in July 1943, “sure we would meet again.” They had believed they were going to a work camp, he said. Van Huiden went into hiding. His family was gassed in Sobibor.
Defense attorneys Ulrich Busch and Guenther Maull asked several co-plaintiffs how they knew for sure that their relatives had been killed in Sobibor. Virtually all of them had seen original lists of deportees or received notifications from the German Red Cross.
Demjanjuk, a former autoworker who lived in suburban Cleveland, was charged in 2002 by the U.S. Justice Department with being a guard at Sobibor. His U.S. citizenship was revoked for lying about his Nazi past in order to enter the United States. He was extradited to Germany in May.
In the early 1980s, Demjanjuk was sentenced to death for being the notorious guard “Ivan the Terrible” at the Treblinka death camp, but the Israeli Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1993 after finding reasonable doubt that he was the guard in question.
New evidence allowed the current charges to be brought.