Ukrainians worst, Holocaust survivor tells court
Published 20/01/2010 | 05:00
Courtroom 101 took on the air of a macabre seance yesterday when the lights were dimmed and one of the last survivors of Sobibor concentration camp guided a stunned, weeping audience back to the Holocaust.
His hand shaking, Thomas Blatt (82) traced a pen along a map of the camp projected on to the wall of the court. In a corner, almost forgotten, was the figure of Ukrainian-born John Demjanjuk (89), accused of being a Sobibor guard complicit in 27,900 murders.
A baseball cap hid Mr Demjanjuk's eyes as he lay on his mobile sick bed, but he said nothing. His defence is that he never served in Sobibor but even if he had, he could not be proven to have been part of the Nazi killing machine.
Mr Blatt, a Polish Jew, deported to Sobibor from nearby Izbica, is the crucial witness in what is being billed as the last big Nazi war crimes trial. "I can tell you," he said, his small frame quivering with anger, "that the Ukrainians were the worst."
He was a teenager with the frame of a jockey and found himself beaten by German SS officers. On one occasion he was flogged over a barrel -- 24 lashes.
But it was the Ukrainians, said Mr Blatt, who were at the sharp end of the camp. It was they who surrounded the trains full of deported Jews and who prodded them with bayonets towards the gas chambers.
"The difference between the Polish and the West European Jews was that those from Poland already knew what was going to happen," said Mr Blatt.
"I'm still in Sobibor, everything comes back, in my sleep, in realistic dreams.
"I'm still there." The trial is expected to run until May. (© The Times, London.)