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
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Maths Teacher - Evening session

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: I am looking for a qualified experi...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week