Matia, is part detective story, part war story, and it is filled entirely with death and grief. Organized in to hunt Axis war criminals, the office is fast running out of quarry.
Meanwhile, Congress is preparing to decide whether to continue funding the office and expand its charter to hunt modern-day war criminals. Some are alleged butchers who would face reams of fresh evidence and dozens of living witnesses should they be prosecuted. Dienstausweis, the folded paper card is called, a service identity pass. It was issued at the SS-run Trawniki Training Camp to new arrival Iwan Demjanjuk, whose boyish face is pictured in the upper right-hand corner, in black and white. On March 27, , it says, he was sent to work at Sobibor.
But it is not new to the OSI. Indeed, the Trawniki card was very nearly the linchpin of the first case against Demjanjuk. More than 20 years ago, the OSI was prepared to argue essentially the same case it has just presented here, with fewer documents but potentially several living witnesses. The primary allegation then, as now, was to be that Demjanjuk served as a low-level guard at Sobibor and other camps--but not Treblinka--then lied about that service upon entering the U.
Everything changed when an even darker possibility arose: that the Cleveland auto worker was not just another death camp guard but rather someone who, even amid the Nazi orgy of murder, managed to distinguish himself as singularly evil. In , before the birth of OSI, the U. Immigration and Naturalization Service mailed Israeli Nazi-hunters 17 mug shots of suspected Nazi collaborators.
In a newspaper ad, the Israeli government asked Treblinka survivors to come view the photos to see if they could identify any as their tormentors.
Several identified Fedorenko, who would later be deported to the Soviet Union and executed. Several others, however, were more interested in photograph No. That launched the case against Demjanjuk. By the time of the first trial in , the brand new OSI was under tremendous political pressure to prove its worth.
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And it went forward with the Ivan the Terrible case, despite growing misgivings among some in the office. Danilchenko, who was captured by the Nazis and said he served with Demjanjuk not at Treblinka but at Sobibor, Flossenburg and a nearby camp called Regensburg. Never, he has maintained, did he serve at a concentration or extermination camp. District Judge Frank J.
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He believed the survivors, who testified emotionally about the evils committed by Ivan the Terrible, the man they said sat before them. In , the judge stripped Demjanjuk of his citizenship, and in he was deported--not to his home country of the USSR, which likely would have charged him with treason, but to Israel, which would try him for war crimes. This broke his heart and almost his spirit, but not quite. At one work camp he dared lead a strike when the commandant halved the potato ration.
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He made numerous attempts to escape. Once, disguised as a migrant Czech worker, he got within 50 miles of the border before being caught. The Gestapo beat him with rubber truncheons and made him dig his own grave in a mock execution before returning him to the camp. On his fifth escape attempt, he made it. All the POWs were being evacuated west away from the advancing Russians at the beginning of , on the infamous Death March through the snow, in which some 3, prisoners died. He dodged away with six men and over the mountains into Czechoslovakia, where they fell into the hands of anti-German partisans.
For the remaining six weeks of the war my father was part of a guerrilla group which lived in the forest, bombed troop trains and attacked police stations. He struggled to make sense of this carnage. But at least his war was now finally over. It had been a long haul from that defeat in Calais, but after four years and days he arrived home to Golders Green in London to a tumultuous welcome from his family.
He went back to his stockbroking firm, soon as a partner. There was an emotional chasm between him and civilians who did not understand the stress of combat or the privations of imprisonment. It was as if he and they lived on different planets. He was overwhelmed by all the sub-human cruelty he had not only witnessed, but taken part in. With that man-to-man killing with his bayonet at Calais, he felt he had crossed a line, and there was no going back.
This was the man I knew as my father. Five years after his return home, he met my mother, and their marriage lasted the rest of his life, producing three children.
But it was always rocky. His torment impacted on all of us around him, casting a shadow over my childhood. He would wake up screaming after some nightmare. Unquenchable anger was his biggest demon. The guilt felt by a survivor pursued him like a demon, causing anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, sleep disturbance, nightmares. Once, he reluctantly agreed to see a psychiatrist, who, unsurprisingly, quickly spotted the canker beneath the surface.
He tried to ease his private pain, making pilgrimages of regret to Calais as well as the places in eastern Europe where he was imprisoned. And so he was still at war and consumed by guilt the day he died in The same could be said of my father. It was there his life changed for ever and for the worse. The sacrifice of the British forces there was a necessary evil — as Darkest Hour shows. And it was not taken lightly. It was the pivotal point of World War II because it meant Britain still had an army to defend itself against invasion.
Without the self-sacrifice of the garrison at Calais, the war might well have ended in defeat. But the cost was greater, and lasted longer, than many of those audiences, as they stream from the cinemas after a truly great and inspiring film, can possibly realise. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. Share this article Share. Share or comment on this article: My dad was a heroe sacrificed by Churchill to save Dunkirk e-mail Most watched News videos Lib Dem candidate Claire Malcomson appears in racy Belgian advert Cops confirm 'mass casualty' event after shooting in Fresno Lisa Wilkinson swipes at Prince Andrew over Jeffrey Epstein links Officials manhandle distressed blind student at Oxford Union debate Man attacks firefighters for taking 'too long' to put out burning car Jennifer Arcuri reads out text she sent to Boris Johnson Royal Navy sailors are filmed passed out after 'drunken rampage' Labour leader refuses to say if he wants to remain in EU or not Jennifer Arcuri gets challenged by Lorraine in GMB handover Jennifer Arcuri says Boris Johnson told her he had five kids Driver tries to get through deep ford despite 'do not cross' sign Inside the heartbreaking world of child slave labor miners.
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After a heated argument among the Japanese officers, the gunners were ordered to stand down and a proclamation was read, announcing the capture of Wake by the Japanese Empire and the decision to spare the lives of the prisoners. None could imagine what the future held, but many a bet was lost on trying to predict it.
Every day eyes scanned the horizon for the anticipated navy rescue that never came. On January 12, , the Nitta Maru steamed away from Wake, carrying 1, of the prisoners, including my father.
The hellish voyage was broken by a brief stop in Yokohama where a few of the captives were allowed topside for propaganda photographs and radio broadcasts, then resumed its course to the Japanese-held coast of China. There the prisoners were marched to the Shanghai War Prisoners Camp at Woosung, a cold, bleak, and dismal compound. The U.