Victims who got justice at last

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The Independent Online
BEN-ZION BLUSTEIN, the retired building contractor from Tel Aviv who chilled the war crimes trial with his testimony of death and survival under Nazi occupation, has never forgotten his mother's parting request before he fled the Jewish ghetto of Domachevo in the autumn of 1942.

"If you come through," Sheindel told the 19-year-old in their makeshift bunker, "try to live a normal life. It is no shame for a man to cry, but don't forget how to laugh."

Within days, Sheindel, her husband and two younger children were dead. The husband, Mr Blustein's stepfather, swallowed a lethal dose of morphine. The others were shot after Mr Blustein, by then a prisoner grooming horses for a squad of German soldiers, thought he had persuaded the troops to bring them into the barracks where they would be safe.

For Mr Blustein, it was the beginning of a desperate, personal three- year war: running from the Germans and their east European henchmen, fighting with the partisans, liberating the Maidanek slave labour and extermination camp in Poland with the Red Army, then driving on to a Berlin smoking and abject in its defeat.

By the time he reached the new-born Jewish state in 1948, Mr Blustein had earned the right to laugh - though first he fought in one more war, with the Israeli army, before he could rebuild that normal life.

Reliving the wartime horrors, first for Scotland Yard, then the Old Bailey, and now The Independent, troubles Mr Blustein's sleep. But he has no regrets. "If I hadn't testified," he asked, "who would have done? I agree with those who say Sawoniuk should have been tried 50 years ago, but for what that man did he must face justice. He mustn't get away with living a normal life all that time."

Another witness, Ludwik Tribuchowicz, is one of just a handful of people who can place Anthony Sawoniuk in Domachevo on the day of the Jewish massacre. As such he chooses his words with care.

"He was a bloody bastard. I saw him the morning of the massacre at the police station. He behaved perfectly normal. He was there until word was sent for him to leave."

Since he had a heart attack, Mr Tribuchowicz, now 82, has not been well enough to travel from his home in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, to give evidence at Sawoniuk's trial.