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Survivor Who Accused Demjanjuk Demonstrates ‘Ivan’s’ Walk in Court

February 24, 1987

JERUSALEM (AP) _ The Treblinka death camp survivor who said John Demjanjuk was the brutal Nazi guard ″Ivan the Terrible″ testified Tuesday that the retired U.S. auto worker had the same walk.

Pinchas Epstein rose from his chair and demonstrated a limping shuffle.

He sobbed as he said the atrocities committed at the Nazi Germany’s Treblinka camp in Poland more than 40 years ago never would leave his memory. ″No one who entered there will ever leave,″ he said. ″It is the kind of horror that will never end.″

The 66-year-old defendant lived in Cleveland, Ohio, until his extradition last year. He is accused of being the Ukrainian guard who beat and mutilated prisoners, sometimes gouged out their eyes, shoved them into the death chambers and turned on the gas.

Demjanjuk, born in the Soviet Ukraine, claims never to have been at Treblinka and says he is a victim of mistaken identity.

Epstein, 61, nodded toward the defendant in court and said, ″His way of walking was the way I remembered from Treblinka.″ The witness rose and walked with small, shuffling steps, limping slightly on his left leg.

The demonstration given by Epstein was similar to the way Demjanjuk has walked at the trial, but Demjanjuk has less of a shuffle and no noticeable limp.

Epstein’s testimony came during cross-examination by defense attorney Mark O’Connor of Buffalo, N.Y., who questioned the witness in detail about his memories of Ivan and Treblinka.

O’Connor has based the defense on the contentions that Ivan was killed in a prisoner uprising in August 1943 and that memories are faulty after such a long period.

On Monday, Epstein pointed to Demjanjuk in court and said the defendant was the guard he knew as Ivan the Terrible at Treblinka, where 850,000 Jews were killed in 1942-1943.

He repeated the assertion Tuesday, saying: ″I am convinced that opposite me sits Ivan the terrible and fearsome who was in Treblinka.″

Asked by Judge Dov Levine how he could be so confident, Esptein said: ″I saw Ivan every day at all hours. I rubbed shoulders with him practically as part of my work. ... He was there all the time ... gouging eyes, cutting off girls’ breasts, lopping off ears, standing back and then enjoying his handiwork.

″He looked at it with such enjoyment: the crushed skulls, the smashed faces, looking as though he had done such a tremendously good job. I can’t find a word in the human language to describe him.″

″Ivan never, ever, in the 11 months I was in Treblinka, ever showed the slightest regret,″ he said, sobbing. ″It is inconceivable, the horror. ... Why, I ask. Why? Because they were Jews.″

Epstein said he did not identify Demjanjuk as Ivan at an extradition hearing in Cleveland in 1980 because ″I was shy about looking him in the face. ... Here I am home. Here I dared.″

Israeli defense lawyer Yoram Sheftel contended that ″the value of identification of the accused in the courtroom is zero because the witness is being led″ by the prosecution.

Demjanjuk wore headphones for a translation of the testimony from Hebrew to Ukrainian. He listened impassively.

When his second day of testimony ended Tuesday, Epstein asked the judge: ″Your honor, if I may address just one sentence to the accused?″

″No,″ Levine said abruptly.

The witness, who escaped from Treblinka during the 1943 uprising, gave a graphic description of pits used for mass burials: ″Chlorine powder was poured on the corpses and after awhile the ground sank in. As it sank, blood erupted from the earth. Then more corpses were added and the process was repeated.″

O’Connor asked Epstein, indicate the locations of barbed-wire fences, latrines, guard posts and burial pits on a diagram of Treblinka.

Epstein said the diagram, copied from one used in trials of Nazi SS officers in 1964 and 1965, was not accurate enough to locate some of the camp details.

Judge Levine occasionally showed impatience with the defense lawyer’s repetitive questioning, saying at one point: ″We have spent 45 minutes in interrogation, and we are still on the same pit. This way we will never get anywhere.″

O’Connor replied: ″With all due respect, your honor, I am exercising as much diligence as I can, as this is extremely important in terms of the mind and memory of the man pointing a finger at my client. I know how hard it is to remember after nearly half a century.″

About 600 people jammed the courtroom, a converted movie theater. The trial began Feb. 15.

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