Survivor Calls Ivan 'Worst Devil of All Treblinka'
Mar. 10, 1987
JERUSALEM (AP) _ A survivor who has identified John Demjanjuk as ''Ivan the Terrible'' said Tuesday the brutal guard was ''the worst devil of all at Treblinka,'' a Nazi death camp where 850,000 Jews perished in World War II.
Ivan was ''tall, brawny and built like a big horse,'' said Yehiel Reichman, 72, the fifth survivor of Treblinka to testify at Demjanjuk's trial. ''I shudder at how it was possible to have a two-legged animal capable of perpetrating such deeds.''
Demjanjuk, a 66-year-old retired U.S. autoworker, is accused of being the sadistic Ukrainian guard who beat and stabbed prisoners at the camp in Nazi- occupied Poland, sometimes slicing off pieces of flesh and gouging out eyes. Ivan also turned on the gas in the death chambers.
Reichman testified Monday that he once saw the guard kill a prisoner with a carpenter's drill.
The defendant, who was born in the Soviet Ukraine and was extradited from the United States last year, claims he never was at Treblinka and is a victim of mistaken identity. His lawyers contend that Ivan was killed during an inmate uprising in August 1943.
In his testimony Tuesday, Reichman said 2,500 dismembered bodies were burned each day at Treblinka and the remains were ground into a powder as fine as cigarette ash.
He described seeing a Nazi officer grab an infant from a naked woman before she entered a gas chamber and ''smash its skull against the wall.''
Guards sometimes forced victims to suffocate slowly by sealing them in the chambers without turning on the gas, he said.
Reichman lost two brothers and three sisters in the Holocaust. He said he escaped from Treblinka during the 1943 uprising and wrote down his memories of 11 months at the camp a year later.
He said Monday that his jobs as a prisoner were to cut the hair of women before they were gassed, pull bits of gold from the teeth of corpses and carry bodies to ovens and burial pits.
Up to 500 corpses were stuffed into each oven, he said Tuesday, but ''we only knew through counting the heads because the bodies were dismembered.''
Women were thrown on the bottom layer, ''their bellies touching the burning furnace,'' he said. ''The heat of the furnaces was so intense, you couldn't stand within 50 meters of them.''
Guards would seal victims inside gas chambers to suffocate when they didn't expect a new shipment of prisoners arrive for several days, Reichman testified.
''Then they would allow themselves to celebrate and wouldn't pump in any gas,'' he said. ''The victims would die by themselves. When they opened the chambers 48 hours later, all the bodies were black. Everything was one solid mass.''
The witness spoke without emotion through much of the four hours of testimony, but his face grew red as he quoted the passages from his 72-page memoir that described Ivan. Demjanjuk watched impassively.
Members of Demjanjuk's family say they have raised about $100,000 for his defense, which they expect to cost five times that. They said most of the money came from friends and members of the Ukrainian community in the United States.
Ed Nishnic, Demjanjuk's son-in-law, said last week in Cleveland that the defense fund was nearly depleted. Nishnic quit his salesman's job in Cleveland last year to raise money.