Holocaust Survivor Faces 100-Year-Old Nazi Concentration Camp Guard In Court
A Holocaust survivor has faced a 100-year-old man who worked as a guard at the Nazi concentration camp where he was sent.
Proceedings against Josef S., 100, who is on trial for being jointly responsible for the murder of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, have begun in a gymnasium in the town of Brandenburg an der Havel, near the German capital Berlin.
Emil Farkas, 92, who moved to Israel after surviving the Nazis, sat across from the defendant, having travelled from his home in the Israeli city of Haifa to attend the trial.
He sang a line from a song he had been forced to sing during his time in the concentration camp, according to Bild: “In my city, there the roses bloom, in home, there lives a girl and that is Erika…”
The German daily explained that this is a lighthearted song about longing. But for the Holocaust survivor, the words evoke horror.
The song is also reportedly evocative of the death of Farkas’ niece Erika, who was deported to Auschwitz when she was a one-year-old child in 1942. She died there along with her parents Max, age unknown, and Peppi, 22.
Bild explained that Emil Farkas, born in 1929, never started singing the song about the “girl Erika” voluntarily, instead being forced to sing it by the SS guards who took sadistic fun out of making the prisoners sing for them.
Speaking to the defendant, Farkas said: “Mr S., you have become a hundred times as old as this innocent child. You saw and heard me in the roll call area and on the test track! Be brave now, at least now, and apologise.”
But the defendant told presiding judge Udo Lechtermann that he did not want to comment for the time being.
Farkas was just 15 years old when he was taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1944. He bore the tattoo number ‘119512’. His mother Matilda told him at the time: “Hang in there! Be strong, Emil!”
He said: “Gymnastics saved me from the hell of annihilation!”
Farkas told the court that he would often exercise before the first roll call at 5 AM. This reportedly impressed the guards who sent him to the Obersturmbannfuehrer, which is the SS equivalent to a Lieutenant Colonel.
Farkas added: “I was put into a shoe-buying detachment.” It no doubt helped that his father Karl, who survived the camps, once had a business in his Slovak hometown making orthopaedic shoes. Farkas’ mother Matilda also survived.
Prisoners who belonged to the shoe-buying detachment had to test prototypes of boots and shoes for the German shoe industry. Farkas said: “We were 170 men every morning, we put on the new shoes and walked the 700-metre distance.”
He added that they had to cover “40 kilometres a day”, singing about “Erika”.
Farkas said: “Anyone who collapsed was shot immediately. I experienced that every day.”
He went on to become a professional athlete and even became part of the Israeli national gymnastics team.
Addressing the defendant, Farkas said: “Mr S., my mother’s sentence has come true. I survived the destruction caused by the Nazi order. An order that you joined voluntarily. I ask you, Mr S., is your secret worth so much to you that you cannot apologise?”
Farkas said he had never described what he had experienced before a German court and it had taken him 50 years to even be able to talk about it.
The defendant, on the other hand, remained silent.
The trial is international, with co-plaintiffs from as far afield as Israel, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Germany and Peru.
Farkas is the sole survivor from Sachsenhausen to appear as a witness at the trial, which is ongoing.