Canada News | 08Jun2006 | Canadian Press
Winnipeg Free Press | 08Jun2006 | Mike Oliveira

Concentration camp survivor testifies at court hearing of two accused Nazis

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. (CP) - The brutal daily horrors of life in a Nazi concentration camp were described in excruciating detail in Federal Court on Thursday at the hearing for two Canadians accused of working as Nazi guards during the Second World War.

Josef Furman, 85, of Edmonton and Jura Skomatchuk, 83, of St. Catharines, Ont., could both have their Canadian citizenship revoked and be deported if they lose their cases.

The citizenship revocation hearing began Thursday after documents allegedly detailing the men's work histories were ruled admissible by the judge.

Historian Johannes Tuchel told court Skomatchuk's name appeared on transfer lists several times, suggesting he was trained as an armed guard at the Nazi Trawniki camp before being transferred to serve at a number of concentration camps.

No evidence connects Skomatchuk directly to any specific war crimes, Tuchel said, but he noted the guards were known for "brutality you can't possibly describe."

Court also heard from former concentration camp prisoner Jack Terry, who described the inhuman conditions of living in captivity, including details from some of the places where the two accused allegedly worked.

Terry occasionally wept as he spoke about losing his family, watching executions and fighting daily for survival, while ruled by guards known for their "unsurpassed brutality."

"They would curse us, kick us; rifle butts were the usual way of dealing with us," he said when asked about his day-to-day life. "Living conditions? I don't use the word living."

Terry said the unrelenting violence was only part of the overall hell within the barbed-wire confines of the camps, one of which was known as the "camp of extermination through work."

Malnourished and barely able to work, his fingers were without skin after a day or two of hauling rocks, and he lived in fear of a making a tiny mistake that would be judged as an act of sabotage and result in death.

Before and after work, he and his fellow prisoners were made to stand in the cold and rain for hours as they were counted by the Germans.

"It was the most excruciating experience," he said.

After narrowly escaping death several times through luck and the kindness of people who protected him, he knew the fate of his sister - his only surviving family member - was grim.

He said his heart broke when he was secretly passed a letter from a prisoner who was interned with her in another camp.

"I know what has happened to our family," she wrote on a tiny piece of paper. "My only wish is to see you again."

But when Terry was liberated from captivity and eventually taken to the United States, he went alone.

The hearing is expected to continue Monday with more testimony from Tuchel. Lawyers are also to begin arguments about Furman's case.

� The Canadian Press, 2006