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May 19, 2011

Finally, Dutch Jews get justice, long delayed

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:51 am

According to the latest news about John Demjanjuk, which you can read here, “Families of Jews who were slaughtered in Sorbibor death camp said Saturday they were pleased with the conviction of John Demjanjuk, who was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday for his role in the killing of 27,900 Jews as a guard at the Nazi camp.”

Jews from many countries were sent to Sobibor to be “slaughtered.”  When will their relatives get justice?  Why were only Dutch Jews included as co-plaintiffs in the prosecution of Demjanjuk?   

The problem is that the names of the Jews who were killed at Sobibor are unknown. The Nazis never registered the Jews who were sent directly to the gas chambers — not in any of the death camps.  Nor did they keep death records for the Jews killed in the gas chambers in any of the camps.

Even the number of Jews that were killed at Sobibor is only an estimate because the train records, which were kept on IBM Hollerith cards, have never been found.  The records were either destroyed by the Nazis or confiscated by the Soviet Union.  Estimates of the number of deaths at Sobibor in the 18 months that the camp was in existence vary from 170,000 to 250,000.

So how did the co-plaintiffs in the Demjanjuk case know that their family members were gassed at Sobibor?  The Nazis, who are famous for keeping meticulous records of everything, recorded the names of the Dutch Jews who were sent on 19 passenger trains to Sobibor from the Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands. The transit lists contain not only the names, but also the place of birth of the 34,000 Dutch Jews who were sent to Sobibor. In case there was more than one person with the same name, the place of birth could be used to identify the victim.  (Source: Dutch historian Johannes Houwink ten Cate)

Approximately 1,000 Dutch Jews were chosen to work as helpers in the  Sobibor camp, or in a nearby labor camp. The other 33,000 Dutch Jews were gassed. Only 19 out of the 34,000 Dutch Jews on the transport list survived.

The prosecutors in the Demjanjuk case were able to determine that at least 27,900 of the Dutch Jews, whose names were on the transport list, were gassed during the six months that Demjanjuk allegedly worked in the camp.  Demjanjuk’s defense was that he never worked at Sobibor and that the ID card presented as evidence by the prosecution was a fake that was produced by the Soviet KGB.

The Dutch Jews, who were sent to Sobibor, were told that they were being “transported to the East” to work. Many had young children that were left behind.  Didn’t the Nazis realize that these children would grow up and live to be co-plaintiffs in a trial of a Ukrainian POW whom they had allegedly recruited to be a guard at Sobibor?  No, they foolishly thought that future generations would believe their story that Sobibor was a transit camp for Jews who were being “transported to the East,” which was a euphemism for killing the Jews in gas chambers.  And of course, they never even dreamed that more than 60 years later, a man, alleged to have been a low-level helper at Sobibor, would be put on trial in a GERMAN court and convicted of a war crime, just for being at the camp.

10 Comments

  1. I find it amazing that you think any of the guards at any of the camps where extermination was occurring had no idea it was taking place.

    I didn’t miss your point about Sobibor. I just don’t understand what your point is. You seem to be trying to minimize how extensive the extermination network really was. To what end? To minimize the Holocaust itself?

    Comment by Steven Ray — June 29, 2011 @ 3:12 am

    • And I find it amazing that you think that the Nazis told a person who was not German and had no loyalty to Germany that they were committing mass murder in gas chambers. As far as I know, gassing was only used in the United States as a means of execution. Would Demjanjuk even have known what gassing was? This was the first time that massing gassing had ever been done in the whole history of the world. The idea of mass execution in a fake shower room was unknown. How would Demjanjuk have understood what was going on?

      Demjanjuk was an enemy soldier who had defected and he was only there for six months. Why would he have been told what was going on?

      Comment by furtherglory — June 29, 2011 @ 5:53 am

  2. <<>>

    How do you know any of this? Were you there? Are you really so naive as to think that Ukrainian guards — who by the way probably have the worst reputation of any nationality for their brutality in the camps — didn’t know they were herding Jews to their deaths? In fact they not only knew it, they relished it.

    You appear to have an inclination to cherry-pick alleged facts simply to support a point of view you’ve already decided on. Are you perhaps one of those people who believes that the so-called Holocaust ‘industry’ — no doubt just another manifestation of the worldwide Jewish conspiracy to bring the civilized world to its knees — is worse than the actual Holocaust?

    So you believe there was no actual death camp at Sobibor (it was just “a place in the woods”), and therefore that the well-documented revolt that occurred at that camp could obviously not have actually taken place (apparently there was no need for one: no death camp, no reason to revolt . . . those ever-ungrateful Jews were simply being ‘resettled in the East’).

    The “spot in the woods” (“just a . . . “) that you refer to was not Sobibor the death camp. It was just the lovely natural setting in which those about to experience the refinement of Sobibor’s gas chambers were forced to undress.

    A large cast of characters who figured into the one-and-a-half-year-long picnic at this “spot in the woods” can be found at any number of internet sources. But more than likely you consider all of those to be nothing more than propaganda websites promulgating Jewish lies.

    Claude Lanzmann made an entire film about Sobibor. But perhaps you think that his film Shoah was also a work of fiction, so why trust him on Sobibor? Even then, are you unaware of the testimony of the camp’s commander, Franz Stangl? Even he did not dispute what went on there. Are you familiar with Leon Feldhendler and Alexander Pechersky, or are they also fictional characters in your view? What about Gustav Wagner, Paul Bredow, Karl Frenzel, Hubert Gomerski, Franz Reichleitner, Paul Groth, Josef Hirtreitor, Hermann Bauer, Heinz Bolender, Werner Dobois, Willi Mentz, etc. etc. — Also, all fictional characters?

    BTW, Shirer gave the shoddiest treatment imaginable to the German resistance to Hitler, completely distorting it and ignoring even the existence, let alone the actions, of its substantial number of civilian (i.e., non-military) participants, the great majority of whom were executed in the wake of the failure of the July 20, 1944 assassination attempt. So I’m not sure we need to look to Shirer for accuracy or confirmation of factual truth.

    Comment by Steven Ray — June 26, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

    • You completely missed the point that I tried to make about Sobibor being a “spot in the woods.” I was trying to get across that Sobibor had no facilities: no real gas chambers that used Zyklon-B, no cremation ovens, and no clothing disinfection chambers. All those facilities were available at Majdanek, which was only a few miles away. So why set up a new camp at Sobibor and use it for only 18 months? The reason was that Sobibor was very close to the banks of the Bug river which was as far as trains could go without changing the wheels on the train because the tracks were a different width on the other side of the Bug river. The Germans called Sobibor a “transit camp.” They claimed that the Jews stopped there to take a shower and get a change of clothing before being sent “to the East” to work. The children who were too young to work were left behind.

      If Demjanjuk actually worked at Sobibor, he would not have been trusted with the secret that the Jews were being gassed; he was a DEFECTOR. Only Germans who could be trusted would have known about the gassing.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 26, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

  3. For some reason, you assume (and apparently are committed to believing) that Demjanjuk is completely innocent. I have no idea why. Assuming he at least was there (but maybe you don’t even accept that), can you imagine that he just stood by watching, but refusing (as a lover of Jews?) to take part in the well-known festivities that occurred there?

    I think the documentation about what occurred at Sobibor is extensive. Again, no idea why you choose to believe otherwise.

    Comment by Steven Ray — June 21, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

    • In 1965, a German court in Hagen, Germany put 11 of the former German SS guards at Sobibor on trial; 6 of them were sentenced to prison, and one committed suicide during the trial; the other 4 were acquitted. So in 1965, the German court was not using the principle that just being there makes you guilty of a crime, since 4 men were acquitted. The documentation of what occurred at Sobibor is extensive, but is it accurate? There were no death records kept, so the number of deaths is only an estimate. Sobibor survivor Moshe Bahir testified at the 1965 trial that he was a witness to a celebration by the German guards in February 1943 after one million Jews had been killed at Sobibor. However, Raul Hilberg wrote in his book entitled “The Destruction of the European Jews” that the number of Jews killed at Sobibor was estimated to be 200,000. Other estimates are 170,000 and 250,000. The German train records, which were kept on IBM Hollerith cards, were confiscated by the Soviet Union, and have never been released, so even the number of people who were sent to Sobibor is unknown.

      According to Dutch historian Johannes Houwink ten Cate, the transportation list of the Jews sent on 19 trains to Sobibor from the transit camp at Westerbork in the Netherlands contains the names and place of birth of the 34,000 Dutch Jews, but the names of the Jews sent from other countries to Sobibor are unknown. Approximately 33,000 Dutch Jews were killed in the gas chambers at Sobibor and 1,000 were chosen as workers at Sobibor, or to be sent to a nearby labor camp; 19 Dutch Jews survived. Why did the Germans leave survivors who could testify against them?

      Demjanjuk was a soldier in the Soviet Army who was captured. The Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention of 1929 and was not following it, so Soviet POWs did not have any rights. Demjanjuk was given the opportunity to help the Germans and he took it so that he would not be treated badly as a POW. His job was to herd the Jews along the path to the gas chamber. I doubt that he was told what would happen to the Jews at the end of the path. The Germans did not want to start a riot or rebellion by telling the Ukrainian helpers that they were gassing the Jews instead of giving them a shower. The Jews were told that they were going to take a shower and the helpers like Demjanjuk were probably also told this.

      Sobibor was only a few miles from Majdanek where there were more gas chambers than at any other camp. There were also a lot of cremation ovens at Majdanek. Yet, the Germans took the Jews to Sobibor, which was just a spot in the woods, with no ovens, to be killed. Majdanek also had a large number of clothing disinfection chambers which were in the building right next to the gas chambers, but there were no disinfection chambers at Sobibor. The clothing had to be sent to Majdanek to be disinfected. Have you ever wondered why the Germans were so inefficient in designing their killing centers? Why not just take the Jews to Majdanek where there were ovens and disinfection chambers? Why was Sobibor closed after 18 months? Majdanek and Auschwitz were kept in operation until they were liberated by the Soviet Army.

      The survivors of Sobibor do not agree on how many gas chambers were there or on how they operated. Everything about Sobibor seems strange to me.

      P.S. The latest figures for Majdanek, according to the Museum there, is 59,000 Jewish deaths. Assuming that at least some of them died of disease or starvation, that means that only 50,000 Jews were gassed at Majdanek. Why did they need to take the Jews to Sobibor, only a few miles from Majdanek, to gass them when the gas chambers at Majdanek were not being used to full capacity? The gas chambers at Sobibor were not well known at the end of the war, in spite of the fact that there were survivors who were witnesses. William Shirer, who was a reporter in Germany, did not even mention Sobibor in his 1147-page book, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” It was not until the release, in 1987, of the TV movie, “Escape from Sobibor,” based on a book with the same name, that the public knew anything about Sobibor. Why didn’t the survivors speak up sooner?

      Comment by furtherglory — June 22, 2011 @ 7:09 am

  4. > And of course, they never even dreamed that more than 60 years later, a man, alleged to have been a low-level helper at Sobibor, would be put on trial in a GERMAN court
    > and convicted of a war crime, just for being at the camp.

    So your contention is what? — that Demjanjuk was just an innocent bystander at the Camp?

    BTW, when does a “low-level helper” in such a place incur guilt? After all, he may, as Eichmann claimed about himself (though demonstrably false in his case), have simply been “following orders.”

    Comment by Steven Ray — June 20, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

    • My contention is that Demjanjuk was convicted of a crime because the prosecution alleged that he worked at the Sobibor camp for six months, which he denies. The law that a person is guilty of a crime simply because he was present at the time that a crime was committed was not a law before the end of the war when the Allies made up the idea of a “common design” or a “common plan” to make everyone guilty who had anything whatsoever to do with the crime. This is the first time that the concept of co-responsibility has been used in the German courts. This is not a law in Germany; it was just assumed by the prosecution that this ex-post-facto law could be used 60 years later in German courts.

      The German court did not have to prove that the Dutch Jews on the train transport list were killed; the court did not have to prove that Demjanjuk participated in the killing. The court proved that Demjanjuk was there for six months, but the proof that he was there will be challenged on appeal. So Demjanjuk was convicted of being a war criminal because he was allegedly present at a place where people were allegedly killed.

      The Dutch relatives are alive because the children of their relatives were not taken to Sobibor. The Nazis called Sobibor a transit camp; they told the Dutch Jews that they were being taken to the East to work. This evidence could have been used to prove that Jews were not killed at Sobibor because only people who were capable of working were taken to the camp. If Sobibor was a death camp, which was used only for the purpose of genocide, why weren’t the children taken to the camp and killed? And why were a few Dutch Jews selected to work in the camp and allowed to survive as witnesses?

      Comment by furtherglory — June 21, 2011 @ 6:41 am


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