Dutch Jew recalls lucky escape before Nazi trial
By Madeline Chambers
BERLIN (Reuters) - In 1943, David van Huiden's parents saved his life by sending him out to walk their Alsatian dog just minutes before Nazis arrested them and his 18-year-old sister and sent the Dutch Jews to their deaths.
They had calculated correctly that the Nazis would pay no attention to an 11-year-old boy with a dog -- especially one that was Germany's most popular breed. Within a month, his family had been gassed at Sobibor death camp in today's Poland.
Van Huiden survived the war with friends in the northern Netherlands pretending to be a Christian orphan and some 66 years later, he still wants justice to be done.
That's why he is going to Germany on Monday as a co-plaintiff in what will probably be Germany's last major Nazi-era war crimes trial.
John Demjanjuk, an 89-year-old former U.S. auto worker who was born in Ukraine will stand trial for helping to murder 27,900 Jews at Sobibor in 1943 -- during the time van Huiden's family were gassed.
"This man is a symbol of what happened at the time. A symbol of how they behaved like monsters," van Huiden told Reuters.
"The trial is symbolic for society. For German society and Dutch society. Too many people did not help," he said in a telephone interview from the Netherlands.
"The main thing is that this event will respect the memory of my family," he said. "This man should have the highest available punishment in Germany," he added.
Demjanjuk could face the rest of his life in prison.
Van Huiden recalled the last time he saw his parents.
"We said: 'see you soon, all the best' and I went off with the dog. I believed 100 percent I would see them again," he said. He removed his yellow star from his clothes which marked him out as a Jew, and went to a friend's house for the night.
After that, he moved to different safe houses.
It was only after the war van Huiden realised he would never see his family again. Eventually he learned his mother, stepfather and sister had been murdered on the day he turned 12.
At first, he did not to dwell on the past but concentrated on building a new life. He became a successful businessman in the wholesale sector, married and had two sons. At 78, he still leads an active life.
"I must stay active. We were four in my family. I have to live for us all. That is the only response to the question -- why did I remain when the others did not?" said van Huiden.
He said he chose to take part in the trial and intended to address the court. During the trial, prosecutors will give details of how Jews survived only 20-30 minutes after going into chambers where they were gassed with a deadly mix of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
They believe Demjanjuk helped push Jews into the gas chambers at Sobibor where at least 250,000 Jews were murdered.
"(Demjanjuk) married and had sons and I want to ask him one thing. If your wife and children had gone to the gas chambers, would you be happy sitting here?"