Sobibór trial

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The Sobibór trial was a judicial trial directly concerning the Sobibór extermination camp. The trial was held in Hagen, Germany. The trial belongs to similar trials held during the early 1960s, such as the Jerusalem Adolf Eichmann trial (1961) and the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials (1963–1965), as a result of which the general public came to realize the full extent of the crimes that some twenty years earlier had been perpetrated in occupied Poland by Nazi bureaucrats and their executioners. In the same and in subsequent years, separate trials dealt with personnel of the Belzec (1963–1965), Treblinka (1964–1965), and Majdanek (1975–1981) extermination camps.

The German court in Hagen initiated proceedings on 6 September 1965 against twelve former members of the SS camp personnel (about a quarter of the SS employed at Sobibór ), accusing them of crimes against humanity. The verdicts were pronounced on 20 December 1966.[1][2]

Defendant Photograph Rank Indictment Conviction Sentence
Frenzel, KarlKarl Frenzel Frenzel, Karl August.jpg SS-Oberscharführer Personally killing 42 Jews and participating in the murder of approximately 250,000 Jews Personally killing 6 Jews and participating in the mass murder of approximately 150,000 Jews Life imprisonment-served 16 years and died 1996
Bolender, KurtKurt Bolender Heinz Kurt Bolender.jpg SS-Oberscharführer Personally killing approximately 360 Jews and participating in the mass murder of approximately 86,000 Jews Committed suicide in prison custody before sentencing
Wolf, FranzFranz Wolf Franz Wolf (Nazi).jpg SS-Oberscharführer Personally killing one Jew and participating in the mass murder of 115,000 Jews Participating in the mass murder of at least 39,000 Jews 8 years imprisonment
Ittner, AlfredAlfred Ittner SS-Oberscharführer Participating in the mass murder of approximately 57,000 Jews Participating in the murder of approximately 68,000 Jews 4 years imprisonment-died 3 November 1976
Dubois, WernerWerner Dubois SS-Oberscharführer Participating in the mass murder of approximately 43,000 Jews Participating in the murder of at least 15,000 Jews 3 years imprisonment-died 22 October 1971
Fuchs, ErichErich Fuchs Erich Fuchs.jpg SS-Scharführer Participating in the mass murder of approximately 3,600 Jews Participating in the murder of at least 79,000 Jews 4 years imprisonment; died 1980
Lachmann, ErichErich Lachmann Erich Gustav Wili Lachmann.jpg SS-Scharführer Participating in the mass murder of approximately 150,000 Jews Acquitted Acquitted-died 23 January 1972
Schütt, Hans-HeinzHans-Heinz Schütt SS-Scharführer Participating in the mass murder of approximately 86,000 Jews Acquitted Acquitted
Unverhau, HeinrichHeinrich Unverhau SS-Unterscharführer Participating in the mass murder of approximately 72,000 Jews Acquitted Acquitted
Jührs, RobertRobert Jührs SS-Unterscharführer Participating in the mass murder of approximately 30 Jews Acquitted Acquitted
Zierke, ErnstErnst Zierke SS-Unterscharführer Participating in the mass murder of approximately 30 Jews Acquitted Acquitted; reportedly died 1972
Lambert, ErwinErwin Lambert Lambert, Erwin.jpg SS-Unterscharführer Participating in the mass murder of an unknown number of Jews Acquitted Acquitted; died 1976

Several other key SS officers who had served at Sobibór were tried earlier, such as SS-Oberscharführer Hubert Gomerski, who was arrested but acquitted in a 1947 euthanasia trial. When his participation in the crimes committed at Sobibór were proven, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on 25 August 1950. {died 28 December 1999} SS-Untersturmführer Johann Klier was arrested, but based on the testimony of Sobibór survivors, that Klier was a person who felt compassion for the Jews and secretly tried to help them, he was released. {died 18 February 1955}

In the 1965-66 trial, the defendants claimed that once assigned to serve in a death camp, there was no way out, citing the statement made by Christian Wirth, to the personnel at Sobibór, "If you do not like it here, you can leave, but under the earth, not over it." However, Klier, who asked to be transferred from Sobibór, was not killed but allowed to leave.

One of the worst murderers in Sobibór was SS-Oberscharführer Erich Bauer, the gas chamber "meister". He was recognised on the streets of Berlin by survivor Samuel Lerner. On 8 May 1950 Bauer was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life in prison, as the death penalty had been abolished in West Germany. Bauer died in the Tegel prison in Berlin in 1980.

A few of the Ukrainian guards who served at Sobibór were brought to trial in the Soviet Union, including B. Bielakow, M. Matwijenko, I. Nikifor, W. Podienko, F. Tichonowski, Emanuel Schultz, and J. Zajcew. They were found guilty of war-crimes and executed.

In April 1963, at a court in Kiev where Sasha Pechersky was the chief prosecution witness, ten former Ukrainian guards were found guilty and executed. One was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

A third trial was held in Kiev in June 1965, where three former death camp guards from Sobibór and Belzec were executed by firing squad.

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