Nazi collaborator `relished tyranny'

A CHILDHOOD friend of Anthony Sawoniuk, the defendant in Britain's first war crimes trial, told yesterday how Mr Sawoniuk behaved like a "cruel lord and master" towards Jews in the Second World War.

More than 50 years after they played together in the streets, Ben Zion Blustein told an Old Bailey jury that he once overheard Mr Sawoniuk saying he enjoyed working as a policeman for the Nazis. "[Before the Nazi invasion of Belarus] he lived and earned his living from the Jews so his relationship must have been all right," Mr Blustein said. "[Afterwards] he was to behave cruelly whenever he wanted and with whomsoever he wanted."

Mr Blustein said he once watched as Mr Sawoniuk beat a young girl after she tried to smuggle potatoes into the Jewish ghetto created by the Nazis in the centre of Domachevo. Later he heard him saying to a fellow policeman: "At the moment, things are good for me. I want to live the way I wish to."

Speaking in Hebrew and addressing the court through a translator, he added: "I had known him since I was nine or ten. The school at which I studied was close to his house and he bred pigeons.

"As children we used to play and run. We bought pigeons from him and in the summer months we used to go and wash in the stream near his house ... I used to meet him almost daily."

Mr Blustein, 76, who now lives in Israel, said that within days of the Nazis invading Belarus, Mr Sawoniuk volunteered as a police officer. "He became a man of power, a master, a lord, and I was a Jew, who had taken away all rights that a person needs in order to survive," he said.

Mr Blustein was giving evidence to the jury after it returned from a visit last week to Domachevo, the town in Belarus in which Mr Sawoniuk is alleged to have murdered up to 20 Jews while working as a policeman during the Nazi occupation of 1941-44. Mr Sawoniuk, 77, from south London, denies all of the charges.

Earlier, Mr Blustein had outlined the terror of living as a Jew in Domachevo once the Germans overran the town in the summer of 1941. Forced to live in a ghetto and wear yellow patches on their chests and backs, Jews were subjected to curfews, rationing and regular beatings. Many were killed.

It was so bad that "if someone died, people were jealous", he said.

The first Jew to be murdered was shot by the Nazis just three days after the invasion, Mr Blustein said. The victim's name was Mendel Rubenstein.

"There was an SS unit and they wanted to create terror and panic among the Jews," Mr Blustein said when asked why the Nazis resorted to murder. "After they killed Rubenstein they got their hands on a Jew called Hershke Grynstein. He was a barber. They also got hold of his three sons. They shot the three sons and they forced the father to bury them.

"When the father started throwing earth on to one of his sons, one son was still alive and he said to his father, `What are you doing?I am still alive.' But with beating, they forced the father to bury him."

Mr Blustein also told how the Nazis murdered a leading rabbi and 40 of his followers. They had forced them to load a cart with sacks of flour before ordering them to pull it towards the river. "They shot them all," Mr Blustein added.

As the killings continued, many Jews tried to build hiding places in the ghetto. Mr Blustein said he built a shelter measuring two metres by one metre under the floor of his aunt's house, in which four of his family were to later hide.

Mr Sawoniuk, a former British Rail ticket collector, is alleged to have assisted the Nazis enthusiastically, organising "search and kill" operations for those who escaped the Nazi slaughter of 2,900 Jews. He is alleged to have fled Domachevo in 1944 when the Red Army counter-attacked and forced the Nazis back to Germany.

The trial continues.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea