Winnipeg Free Press | 23Dec2009 | Geir Moulson

Ukrainian guards worse than Nazis, survivor says

MUNICH, Germany -- A survivor of the Sobibor death camp testified that Ukrainian guards in Nazi-occupied Poland were worse than the Nazis' infamous paramilitary SS as he recalled his experiences Tuesday [22Dec2009] at the trial of John Demjanjuk.

The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, a retired auto worker who was deported from the U.S. in May, is charged with 27,900 counts of accessory to murder for his alleged activities as a guard at Sobibor.

Jules Schelvis, an 88-year-old from the Netherlands, recalled being deported to Sobibor in 1943 along with his family. He told the Munich state court that he lost 18 relatives -- including his wife, Rachel -- at the camp.

Schelvis, one of dozens of victims' relatives who have joined the trial as co-plaintiffs, as allowed under German law, recounted his 72-hour journey from the Dutch transit camp of Westerbork in a cramped freight car, with no food and little water or fresh air.

"We were crammed in like herrings in a barrel," Schelvis testified.

At Sobibor, Schelvis recalled, the new arrivals were made to leave all their belongings in a hut before an SS man separated the men from the women, who "disappeared from view."

[W.Z. An alternate scenario is that the deportees were met by a contingent of Jewish kapos (Jewish Nazi collaborators), who could converse with the new arrivals in Yiddish. The new arrivals were then "de-golded" and separated into the various categories according to their abilities. The testimony of Schelvis confirms that, at least in his case, Sobibor was a transit camp.]

Another SS man selected strong young men -- including Schelvis' brother-in-law -- and the witness said he also was allowed to join the group after giving an assurance that he was healthy and spoke German.

The group was taken on a long drive and march from Sobibor to Dorohucza, where they were put to work digging up peat to serve as fuel, Schelvis said.

[W.Z. This is exactly what John Demjanjuk claims that he was forced to do!]

Schelvis said he first came across Ukrainian guards at Dorohucza. "We knew that the Ukrainian guards were worse than the SS," he told the court.

[W.Z. The usual obligatory Ukrainian-bashing. It's nice to know that there were no "Ukrainian guards" in Sobibor. How does Schelvis know the guards in Dorohcza were Ukrainian? Did they speak Ukrainian? Does Schelvis speak Ukrainian? How did Schelvis converse with these guards?]

He said that, near Lublin, he saw two Ukrainian guards pass by with two Jewish prisoners.

"We heard shots, and they came back without the two men and with their clothes," he said. "Then we knew that they were worse than the others."

Schelvis said he passed through a series of camps in occupied eastern Europe, among them Auschwitz, before being liberated from a camp in Vaihingen, in western Germany, at the end of the war.

[W.Z. It would be nice to know the names, locations and time of arrival at these camps.]

The paramilitary SS, short for Schutzstaffel or Protective Squadron, ran concentration camps and carried out mass killings.

The 89-year-old Demjanjuk -- who suffers from medical problems -- was wheeled in to the Munich state court on a stretcher Tuesday and lay on a bed with his eyes shut throughout the day.

There are no direct living witnesses to Demjanjuk's alleged activities at Sobibor. Prosecutors argue that, if he was a guard at the death camp, that means he was involved in the Nazi machinery of destruction.

The prosecution argues that Demjanjuk, a Soviet Red Army soldier, volunteered to serve as a guard for the SS after his capture by the Germans in 1942. Demjanjuk denies ever having served as a guard.

The trial resumes on Jan. 12, 2010.

-- The Associated Press

Winnipeg Free Press | 30Dec2009 | Staff Writer

Headline unfair to Ukrainians Letter of the day

Re: Ukrainian guards worse than Nazis, survivor says (Dec. 23, 2009). This cheap and inappropriate statement, even if purportedly a quotation from a so-called witness at the John Demjanjuk trial in Germany, is not something of which the Winnipeg Free Press should be proud. As a generalized innuendo, this type of needless headline is a very painful insult to the memory of my honourable Ukrainian parents and in-laws who suffered during, and somehow survived, both Nazi and Soviet terror. It is a gratuitous insult to me personally -- a child survivor of those same historical events. It is also a sad insult to my Canadian children and grandchildren who, by such crass sensationalism, are indirectly tarred with your broad brush.

And why does the Free Press continuously belabour the farcical Demjanjuk trial in Germany? A trial on tenuous, trumped up charges of a person about whom even an Israeli court had to admit that no evidence existed on the basis of which he could be convicted. Could it be that Germany is trying to divert the world's attention from its own dark sins by downloading them onto the shoulders of that old man?

Ostap Hawaleshka


At least seven million Ukrainians were killed in the Second World War. My father has never seen his father because of the German Nazis. And now Ukrainians are worse than the Germans? This article is more than ridiculous. It is as unacceptable as it is discriminative and abusive.

Stan Nastenko
Port Coquitlam, B.C.