Friday, August 05, 2005

Trial of an Accused Former Nazi

Yesterday I was able to view the closing session of a trial brought against an 86-year old Ukranian immigrant alleged to be a member of the Ukrainian Auxiliary Policy in World War II, a group that answered to the German Nazis and committed all sorts of atrocities against Jews, a hallmark being rounding them up and sending them to concentration camps. The man on trial, Osyp Firischak, is accused of covering up his time in the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police in the town of Lviv on immigration papers to get into the U.S. If found guilty, he would be deported.

Sitting in the courtroom through this trial was a trying experience. For one, the man on trial, Osyp Firischak is an old, grey-haired man who walks with somewhat of a stoop and the assistance of a cane. He doesn't look the part of one who could have committed the cold-blooded crimes that he most probably did if he was indeed a member of the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police. On the other hand, if he did lie about his past--and his story that there was another Osyp Firischak in the Ukrainian Police while he was meanwhile living the life of an itinerant in a city where the police supposedly enlisted any able-bodied man they could find seems improbable--he broke the law.

I met a woman who was a bit younger than Firischak who was a Ukrainian Jew who had hid out in the town of Lviv during that time. She said much of her family had been killed. It was interesting to be in the same room as people who are a testament to the atrocities that went on in Europe under the Nazis, and it caused me to wonder what it must have been like to live in a world where so many people lived with survival first and foremost on their minds.

For more information about the trial of USA v. Firischack, look here.

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