I am currently scheduled to testify at the trial of John Demjanjuk in Munich between January 19 and 21. In response to questions that I have received from members of the world media, I have prepared the following statement:
“In the names of everyone who died at Sobibor--including my father, my two sisters, and my niece--I would like to see John Demjanjuk brought to justice for any crimes that he committed. I don’t remember Mr. Demjanjuk’s face, but nor do I remember the faces of most Sobibor guards. I do remember that the guards watched over us, beat us, and sometimes shot us. I witnessed several Jews shot to death by a firing squad of guards. I also heard stories inside the camp of guards who successfully escaped from the camp. Several guards once escorted me on a work detail outside the camp, and they had an opportunity to escape at this time but they did not try. Old age and ill health do not merit mercy in this trial. No mercy was shown to the innocent people who died at Sobibor. Young and old alike were murdered without mercy by the Nazis at Sobibor. If Mr. Demjanjuk was one of these war criminals, why should he receive mercy? And it should not matter that the crimes took place so long ago. Genocide still occurs today. Where it is not happening in one part of the world it is being planned in another part. The trial will send an important message to anyone who contemplates or carries out genocide: you will be held responsible for your actions. Some people say that the Trawniki men cannot be guilty because they were prisoners themselves. But prisoners have no right to commit murder. Maybe the Trawniki men felt that they and their families had a better chance to survive if they fought for Hitler instead of Stalin. And maybe this gave him them the right to join a German battle unit and to fight on a field of war against other soldiers. But they had no right to perform guard duty at a death camp. If they served at Sobibor, it was for the purpose of murdering thousands of innocent men, women and children. All of the Sobibor guards had a moral obligation to either lay down their weapons or resist in some way. If they did not, they should be treated as war criminals. I wish to see them punished appropriately for their actions.”
- Philip Bialowitz
- Philip Bialowitz was the last remaining Polish Jewish survivor of the infamous Nazi death camp, Sobibór, where an estimated 250,000 people perished between 1942 and 1943. There, Mr. Bialowitz joined a small group of Jewish prisoners who overpowered their captors and freed approximately 200 of the camp’s 600 slave laborers. Mr. Bialowitz lectured frequently to diverse audiences in North America, Europe and Israel (including members of Israel's Officer Corps and Diplomatic Corps) about both his experiences at Sobibór and the continued importance of mutual respect among people of different beliefs. He testified at several war crimes trials. Mr. Bialowitz’ memoir was published in English (title: A Promise at Sobibór: A Jewish Boy’s Story of Revolt and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland) and in Polish (title: Bunt w Sobibórze). A curriculum based on Mr. Bialowitz’s book was developed for Polish schools by the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. After the Holocaust, Mr. Bialowitz trained in Germany to be a dentist but eventually settled in New York City, where he worked as a jeweler. He died peacefully, surrounded by his four surviving children, in 2016.