MUNICH - A Dutch man recalled losing his parents and girlfriend at the Sobibor death camp, while a man whose pregnant mother was killed said yesterday that he was testifying at John Demjanjuk's trial on behalf of his unborn brother or sister.
The 89-year-old retired U.S. auto worker is charged as an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews for his alleged activities as a guard at the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II.
The Munich state court rejected a series of defense motions calling for a halt to the trial and Demjanjuk's release from custody. It spent the day hearing testimony from relatives who have joined the trial as co-plaintiffs.
Philip Jacobs, 87, recalled in a breaking voice that his parents and "my beloved girlfriend, Ruth," a German native then aged 21, were transported in July 1943 from the Dutch transit camp of Westerbork to Sobibor, where they perished.
"I lost the love of my life, and I have missed my parents very much," Jacobs, who escaped the occupied Netherlands in 1941 with money from his father and made his way to England, said as he sat a few feet from Demjanjuk. "I often torment myself with thinking about why I remained alive, why I left my family alone."
Demjanjuk sat in a wheelchair and kept his eyes shut during the testimony. He wore a blue baseball cap and had a blanket over his lap, and was brought in on a bed for the afternoon session after complaining of back pain.
Robert Cohen, an Auschwitz survivor, testified that his brother and parents "went to Sobibor, and I never saw them again." Cohen, who was still at Westerbork at that stage, said that "I wanted to be deported, too."
"We were very naive then," Cohen, 83, said. "I thought I would see my family again."
Marco de Groot, 70, said he escaped being rounded up with his mother in the Netherlands at age 3 because he was playing at a neighbor's house.
"My mother was heavily pregnant, so I'm here for my unborn brother or sister too," he told the court. He was kept hidden by various families during the war.
German law lets crime victims or their relatives join a trial as co-plaintiffs. Defense lawyer Ulrich Busch said the co-plaintiffs' testimony illustrated the suffering brought on them and their families by Nazi Germany but did not offer information that would help illuminate the case against Demjanjuk, as all were far from the scene.
There are no direct living witnesses to Demjanjuk's alleged activities at Sobibor, but prosecutors argue that, if he was a guard there, he was involved in the Nazi machinery of destruction.
The prosecution says Demjanjuk, a Soviet Red Army soldier, volunteered to serve as an SS guard after his capture by the Germans in 1942. Demjanjuk denies ever having served as a guard.