ARC Main Page Occupation of the East Trawniki Aktion Erntefest

Late Trawniki Trials

Last Update 14 July 2005

The trials of former camp guards continue, sixty years after the end of WW2. There are three interesting aspects to these current trials:
a) The trials are not directly of the actions of the camp guards during the war but of what these former guards disclosed on immigration application in relation to those activities.
b) Most of the trials relate not to German camp guards but Poles, Ukrainians auxiliaries etc who were trained at Trawniki.
c) The worldwide interest still generated by these trials.

These trials are being undertaken in the US (and also Canada) by the Justice Departments Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and US Attorneys Office. As it so difficult to provide sufficient direct evidence sixty years after the war, failures in disclosure on immigration to the US have been used as a substitute to prosecute. When emigrating into the US émigrés are required to declare whether they were Nazis or participated in actions against civilians. Most of the 400,000 or so émigrés from Europe to the US after the war failed to make such a declaration, although a reasonable number must have fallen into that category. The OSI estimates at least 10,000.

The US, like many other countries, took little interest after 1949 in chasing and bringing to trial the lower level war criminals, especially non Germans until about twenty years ago when the Holtzman amendment was passed giving the law teeth and setting up the OSI. The OSI has since 1979 won 79 cases and blocked the immigration of 170 individuals. The law doesn’t require that the US Government prove the defendants committed atrocities only that membership and participation in actions associated with atrocities. Most of these cases are of non-German auxiliaries as most of the records that the OSI had access to are those from Eastern Europe which are more intact than German records. Many of the recent trials date back to information secured at the time of the famous trial of John Demjanjuk (charged with being a camp guard known as "Ivan The Terrible" trained at Trawniki) in the 1980ies when detailed records of Trawniki personal were discovered. In 2002 alone the OSI filed cases against eight suspected camp guards trained at Trawniki.

The following six trials, related to Ukrainians and Poles who served as camp guards in Aktion Reinhard and other camps and were trained at Trawniki, give an indication of their extent:
1) Andrew Kuras, a Ukrainian from Galicia, entered guard service in December 1942, receiving his training at the Trawniki training camp. He went on to serve as a guard at the Trawniki labour camp, Poniatowa and the SS labour camp Dorohucza. Kuras was at these camps until a few weeks before the Erntefest massacre in November 1943. He emigrated to the US in 1951, becoming a citizen in 1962. In 2004 he was stripped of his US citizenship.

2) Iwan Mandycz was born in Olievo-Korolivka in the Ukraine in 1920. He was trained at Trawniki in April 1943 and served as a guard at Poniatowa until November 1943. He went on to serve as a guard at KZ Sachsenhausen. Mandycz emigrated to the US in 1949, became a US citizen in 1955, and was stripped of his US citizenship in 2005.

3) The Ukrainian Mykola Wasylyk served as a guard at Trawniki and Budzyn camps between April and November 1943. He was deported from the US in 2004.

4) Vladas Zajanckauskas served as a auxiliary guard between mid 1942 and March 1945. He was trained at Trawniki, and subsequently became a trainer himself. He was also deployed to Warsaw in April 1943, as a non commissioned officer to destroy the Warsaw Ghetto. He emigrated to the US in 1950, and became a US citizen in 1956. His citizenship was revoked in 2005. Zajanckauskas told immigration officials that he never told them originally about his Trawniki service because he thought it would jeopardise his chances of getting into the US.

5) Jaroslaw Bilaniuk, a Ukrainian, was trained at the Trawniki training camp and subsequently served at the Trawniki labour camp. After this he served in anti partisan units and in guarding civilians. He emigrated to the US in 1949, and became a US citizen in 1957.

6) Bronislaw Hajda, a Pole, was trained at Trawniki, in January 1943. He served at the Trawniki labour camp and subsequently from March 1943 at Treblinka I (in which he participated in a July 1944 Massacre of Jews). He later served in the SS battalion Streibel, recruiting and guarding forced Polish workers in building fortifications against the Russian advance. He emigrated to the US in 1950 and his citizenship was rescinded in 1998.

Canada, similar to the US, has also used immigration laws to pursue war criminals and has successfully prosecuted a number of cases. This included the Ukrainian Josef Furman, who was brought to trial in 2004. He trained at Trawniki and took part in liquidating ghettos, including the Warsaw Ghetto. He ended up as a camp guard at KZ Flossenbürg. Furman came to Canada in 1949, and became a citizen in 1957.

Many other countries to which large-scale immigration occurred after the war have failed to take similar action, including Great Britain and Australia.
Public interest continues unabated with substantive newspaper coverage of each of these trials as they happen in the US, Canada, Great Britain, Germany etc.

© ARC 2005