Sobibor survivor: Demjanjuk trial will go down in history | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 13.05.2009
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Sobibor survivor: Demjanjuk trial will go down in history

Deutsche Welle spoke with Thomas Blatt, one of few to escape from the Nazi-run Sobibor extermination camp. He says he doesn't care whether John Demjanjuk is jailed for working at the camp, just that he tells the truth.

A mound formed by the ashes of those killed at the Sobibor extermination camp

Some 250,000 Jews, Gypsies and political prisoners were murdered in Sobibor's gas chambers

Thomas Blatt was one of the few to survive the Sobibor extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. The 82-year-old is now a key witness in the Munich trial of John Demjanjuk, who is alleged to have been a guard at Sobibor.

Deutsche Welle: Why did you decide to come to Germany for this trial?

Thomas Blatt: Because when I escaped from Sobibor, I promised myself that if I survived, I will do everything to tell the story of Sobibor. And that's what I'm doing. And I know that Demjanjuk knows a lot, because Demjanjuk was in the middle of the Holocaust. And he denies that it is him, that he was not a guard at Sobibor, but he was. I don't care if Demjanjuk is in jail or not. I do care that he should tell the truth. And the truth is, that he was a guard at Sobibor.

Sobibor was not a simple concentration camp. Sobibor was an extermination camp. At Sobibor the guards were simple murderers. In a concentration camp a guard was a guard, … responsible [for preventing] people from running away. But at Sobibor they were simple murderers.

You said that among the guards at Sobibor some were sadistic.

John Demjanjuk's wartime identification card

Demjanjuk's wartime identification card is a major piece of evidence against him

I said that they were sadistic and that some guards escaped from Sobibor. But Demjanjuk did not escape. He was there all the time with the Nazis. I don't say that I [saw] him for sure.

[The guards] were very sadistic. And we were more afraid of the guards than we were of the Germans.

I'm sure I know that he was a guard. It is my duty to tell. He should tell what Sobibor was for.

What will be your reaction if there is not enough evidence to find Mr. Demjanjuk guilty?

I believe that he will tell the truth, the way it was in Sobibor. And this will be part of history. This will be [something] for the new generation to learn. Because what he has seen, few people have seen. I strongly believe he will tell the truth. And later Demjanjuk could go free. For me his testimony is very important, and that's why I am in Munich following Demjanjuk's story.

I am sorry in a way for Demjanjuk. He's an old man, 89 years old. He's sick, he has a family. So I'm sorry in a way. And I think that many people think the same way: he's an old man, he's suffered so much. But I also see the other side of Demjanjuk. I see him as a terrible sadist, a murderer. He didn't run away from his work.

Interview: Michael Lawton
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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