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Ivan the Terrible! The story of John Demjanjuk

Iwan (John) Demjanjuk

"Ivan the Terrible"

 

John Demjanjuk as a young man in the Ukraine

John Demjanjuk, was born Iwan Nikolayevich Demjanjuk on the 3 April 1920 in the Ukrainian village of Dubovi Makharintsi, Kozjatyn Region, Vinnitsa Oblast.

 

His fathers name was Nikolaj who had lost several fingers during the First World War and his mothers name was Olga, the family were very poor, and they were forced to live with relatives on a collective farm (kolkhoz) near Moscow. The great famine in the Ukraine during 1932-33 had a devastating impact on Iwan Demjanjuk, as he was to recall as he stood trial for his life during 1987.

 

Food was abundant but there was little work, so the family were forced to return to their village. When he was about seventeen Demjanjuk started work in a local Kolkhoz, he commenced using a plough, and progressed to an assistant to the tractor driver.

 

Two years after joining the Communist Youth Organisation (Komsomol) he was drafted into the Red Army, where his aptitude for driving tractors was recognised. Demjanjuk was taken prisoner by the Germans at the battle of Kerch in the Crimea on the 18 May 1942. He spent a short time, a couple of weeks in a Prisoner of War camp at Rowno, before being sent to another Prisoner of War camp in Chelm in Poland.

 

At Chelm Demjanjuk was recruited into the SS to serve as a death camp guard, and between July and September 1942 Iwan Demjanjuk was trained to carry out these tasks. During his trial in Israel where he was falsely accused as being the Treblinka SS guard “Ivan the Terrible,” and his Trawniki Dienstausweis, was examined in close detail.

 

The card read that he was 1 metre 75cm tall, had grey eyes, and dark blond hair and a visible scar on his back. It also showed two postings, “L.G. Okzow on September 22 1942 and to Sobibor on March 27 1943.  

 

The Dienstausweis bore three signatures, Karl Streibel, the Trawniki SS Commandant, Ernst Teufel the camps supply officer, and Demjanjuk’s. It also contained his camp identification number 1393. The training he received at Trawniki was aimed at instilling SS and military type discipline. The “Trawniki-manner” were assigned to platoons of 35 -40 men and companies of 120 men.

 

Demjanjuk Dienstausweis  

 (click text to enlarge)

Demjanjuk Dienstausweis (back)

 (click text to enlarge)

A guard who had been trained at Trawniki, J.H. Engelhardt later stated that “you were taught there to shoot with a gun, machine gun and sub-machine gun and to throw grenades and all this in the German language.”

 

From the 22 September 1942 till early January 1943 Demjanjuk served as a guard at the Okzow country estate in the vicinity of Chelm. The estate which also had an alcohol distillery had Jewish workers, which required guarding.

 

From there he was transferred to the Lublin Concentration Camp ( Majdanek) and he was punished on the 18 January 1943, along with three other Trawniki-manner for leaving the camp without permission to buy onions. A disciplinary report signed by SS – Unterscharfuhrer Hermann Erlinger was found in an archive in Vilnius.

 

One of the other guards punished was Zaki Tuktarov (1730 – identification number) who admitted after the war he had served in Lublin (Majdanek).

From Lublin Demjanjuk returned to Trawniki and on the 26 March 1943 was despatched to with seventy –nine other guards to the Sobibor death camp.

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/trials/demjanjuk.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009

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