The Plea, by Rudolf Salomon Cortissos

Case of John Demjanjuk, the notorious Nazi concentration guard


Unfortunately, the world does not change. The Inquisition in the Iberian Peninsula, the pogroms in the former Eastern European countries, the contemporary Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism still prevalent everywhere. But the Shoah puts this head and shoulders above all the rest. Six million Jews were gassed, shot, buried alive in quicklime, they were betrayed, froze to death, starved, neutered or spayed, subjected to deadly experiments or they were tortured, humiliated and dishonourably  buried.


That was in 1940-1945.  Today we are faced with Darfur, Rwanda, Srebrenica and prisons where degrading conditions prevail. Apparently man still cannot behave.


I'm actually not happy to be here. It's like a dream, something completely unreal. More than 67 years ago, on May 21, 1943, my mother was murdered in Sobibor, and I, her son who never knew her, have the opportunity to speak with those present in the courtroom at Munich. After being betrayed by a member of the NSB (The National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands) my mother was arrested while travelling on a tram. She was sent to the Westerbork transit camp in Amsterdam on May 11, 1943. On May 18, 1943 my mother was taken from Westerbork transit camp and forced onto a cattle train. The train departed in an easterly direction. During her journey she managed to write a letter and throw it off the train.


Now I can feel close and personal with the names of the many dead, murdered and living, show the world that the effects of the Holocaust still play a major role almost daily. This applies not only to me, but also to very many people in the same situation around the world.


Who I am?  Born 1939 in Amsterdam, Holland, I was from late 1941 to the end of the war completely alone, having to hide under a false name, when like a package I was given away to strangers. My mother never saw me. Imagine what that means for a child and the parents?  Within me, my Portuguese-Jewish descent died with the fate of my mother and 63 other members of the family who perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and Sobibor. I actually feel that I am representing all the 4,500 Portuguese Ashkenazi Jews and other 97,500 killed. Eventually there is no distinction.


As mentioned, it plays almost a daily part in my life, a life that has fortunately developed well. But imagine what it means to be without parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and no expanding family.


Please be aware and consider the following:


Normally we can go to the toilet when the need be, instead of having to travel eastward on a cattle train to share a bucket with 100 complete strangers.


To breathe fresh air instead of suffering the stifling foul air that my mother with her asthmatic breathing problems had to endure for three days on route to Poland.


To enjoy a meal at home or in a restaurant, other than being denied any food or drink and left to starve.


To be able to sleep only when you are tired, other than being beaten into submission with a whip and forced naked into a gas chamber - Take a shower with a multitude of other naked people, crowded together, to choke instead of bath.


Please align your thoughts according to my experiences and try to perceive and understand my way of thinking:


A warming fire with a hearth, against an incinerator where people were burned.


A visit to the hairdresser when we like, but my mother and her sister were forced shaved at Sobibor.


An evening at a concert to hear the music of your choice versus the music that was controlled by Nazi officers at the train station played by doomed Jewish musicians in order to keep the prisoners calm.


A visit to the dentist for professional treatment versus the extraction of gold teeth from the mouths of the deceased said six million.


Yes, these comparisons are graphic and terrible.


I often discuss this subject with friends, there is much writing to be read in the public domain. In the media around the world, there is always images and films on the Holocaust being broadcast on television shows and in cinema. And how many books based on this theme have been written and are being read? But I am frequently plagued and confronted with these thoughts, not every day but at least several times a week. How is it possible that people have evolved themselves in this way and who are now subjected with these thoughts and memories for the rest of their lives?


The world needs to know what role a man like Demjanjuk had played during the war. It will never be over and this man will never escape punishment if guilty. We cannot and must not forget. We must make our contributions to describing the true facts about the horrors of the Holocaust, so that nothing ever as terrible as this never occurs again.


Rudie Cortissos, Amsterdam
Sobibor, Demjanjuk trial, March 2011


Case of John Demjanjuk.

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