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Sobibor Trials

Last Update 24 January 2006

  

These former SS men who served in Sobibor were brought to trial in Hagen in September 1965 charged with murdering Jews in the Sobibor death camp.

Name --- Result --- T4

Bolender, Kurt --- Suicide --- Burner
Dubois, Werner --- 3 years imp. --- Burner, driver
Frenzel, Karl --- Life imp. --- Burner
Fuchs, Erich --- 4 years imp. --- Driver
Ittner, Alfred --- 4 years imp. --- T4 office
Jührs, Robert --- Acquitted --- Male nurse
Lachmann, Erich --- Acquitted --- ?
Lambert, Erwin --- Acquitted --- Builder
Schütt, Heinz-Hans --- Acquitted --- Office chief
Unverhau, Heinrich --- Acquitted --- Gas chamber assistant
Wolf, Franz --- 8 years imp. --- Photographer
Zierke, Ernst --- Acquitted --- Driver


Before the above trial several key SS personnel who had served at Sobibor were tried, such as SS-Oberscharführer Hubert Gomerski, who was arrested but acquitted in a 1947 euthanasia trial. When his participation in the crimes committed at Sobibor were proven, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on 25 August 1950.

Then SS-Untersturmführer Johann Klier was arrested. Based on the testimony of Sobibor survivors, that Klier was a person who felt compassion for the Jews and secretly tried to help them, he was released.

One of the worst murderers SS-Oberscharführer Erich Bauer, the gas chamber chief, was recognised on the streets of Berlin by survivor Samuel Lerner. On 8 May 1950, Bauer was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life in prison, as the death penalty had been abolished.
Bauer died in the Tegel prison in Berlin in 1980.

In the 1965/66 trials the accused claimed that once assigned to a death camp there was no way out, citing Christian Wirths statement to the personnel at Sobibor:
"If any of you dont like it here, you can leave, but under the earth not over it."

However, facts show otherwise, such as Klier, who asked to be transferred out of Sobibor, and this was allowed without punishment.

Only one member of the Sobibor personnel SS-Unterscharführer Werner Dubois, admitted guilt in his court testimony at Hagen. His court testimony read:
"It is clear to me that in the extermination camp, murder was committed. What I have done was only to assist in the murder. If I were to be found to be guilty it would be justified, murder is murder. We are all guilty. The camp had a chain of command and if one link in the chain were to refuse to co-operate then the whole system would collapse... We did not have the courage to disobey orders."

Franz Stangl, the first commander of Sobibor, was tried for his activity at Treblinka. Sobibor was excluded for administrative purposes.

A few of the Ukrainian guards who served at Sobibor were brought to trial in the Soviet Union, such as B. Bielakow, M. Matwijenko, I. Nikifor, W. Podienko, F. Tichonowski, Emanuel Schultz and J. Zajcew. They were found guilty and executed for their crimes.

In April 1963, at a court in Kiev where Sasha Pechersky was the chief prosecution witness, ten former Ukrainian guards were found guilty and executed, one was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

A third trial was held in Kiev in June 1965, where three former death camp guards from Sobibor and Belzec were executed by firing squad.


Sources:

Robin O Neil. Belzec - The Forgotten Camp
Thomas Blatt. Sobibor - The Forgotten Revolt
Gitta Sereny. Into that Darkness

© ARC 2006