Sawoniuk betrayed by letter intercepted by the KGB

ANTHONY SAWONIUK was traced almost by chance, when a letter he wrote to his half-brother in 1951 was intercepted by the KGB. But it would be 35 years later before he came to the attention of the British authorities.

Sawoniuk wrote the letter to Nikolai four years after he had settled in Britain. His half-brother was still living in Soviet-occupied Belarus and the KGB routinely intercepted all mail from the West. The letter revealed the whereabouts of a man the Soviet secret police had been looking for since the end of the war.

Sawoniuk came to the attention of the Russians as soon as they liberated Domachevo in July 1944. As was the practice, the Red Army held an inquiry to find out which people had sided with the Nazis. Sawoniuk's name was one of those quickly added to the Russians' list of wanted people. They looked for him but there was no trace. By this time, Sawoniuk had long since fled, crossing into Poland with the Germans in the company of his second wife, Nina. He then signed up for the Waffen SS but in November Sawoniuk deserted - dumping the pregnant Nina - while in Alsace, France. Perhaps having seen the way the war was going, Sawoniuk changed sides - signing up to join the 10th Hussar Regiment of Polish Corps. Intriguingly, Szymon Serafinowicz, who was also charged with murdering Jews but whose trial in Britain collapsed when it was found he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, also served with this regiment.

Settling in Britain, Sawoniuk felt able to write to his brother the letter that would be intercepted. The Russians felt unable to act on it until in 1986 they passed to the Foreign Office a list of 97 suspected war criminals living in Britain.

At the same time, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre - the Israeli organisation that traces war criminals - had been pushing the British to act against suspects. The head of its Israeli office, Dr Effrain Zuroff, was working on lists of suspects living in Britain, Canada and Australia. In October 1986 a list of 17 names - not including Sawoniuk - was presented to Britain.

The persistence of Dr Zuroff and others led to the establishment in 1988 of a War Crimes Inquiry, led by Sir Thomas Hetherington and William Chalmers. The Russian list of 97 names, among them Sawoniuk, was passed to this inquiry. Hugely controversial, the inquiry recommended that the issue of war criminals living in Britain could no longer be ignored. In 1991 Parliament passed the War Crimes Act, which extended the jurisdiction of British courts to deal with crimes committed outside the United Kingdom.

But Sawoniuk is likely to be one of perhaps only two people prosecuted in Britain under the act. Police have revealed that of the 376 cases of alleged war crimes they have investigated since 1991, only one other possible prosecution was pending. Another 30 suspects living in Britain against whom there is evidence of war crimes have been diagnosed as being too ill to prosecute. Another 117 have died. In the other cases the allegations were discovered to be unfounded or else there was insufficient evidence.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Arts and Entertainment
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home