Sobibor Death Camp Ignat Danilchenko

Ignat Terent’yevich Danilchenko

Record of Questioning of Witness

November 21 1979

City of Tyumen

The department Procurator

Procuracy of the USSR

Senior Legal Counsel: N.P. Kolesnikowa, in connection with the request from the organs of justice of the USA for legal aid in the case of the suspected Nazi war criminal Demjanjuk, in accordance with the requirements of Articles 158 and 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the RSFSR, in the offices of the Procuracy of Tyumen Oblast, questioned as witness:

Ignat Terent’yevich Danilchenko, born 1923, native of the village of Grechino, Tsarichan Rayon, Dnepropetrovsk Oblast, Ukrainian citizen of the USSR, secondary education, residing in the 4th district, No 6, Apartment No 8, city of Tobol’sk.

The responsibilities of a witness provided for by Article 73 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the RSFSR were explained to I.T. Danilchenko and he was warned of his criminal responsibility for deliberately giving false statements, refusal to give statements or evasiveness in doing so under Articles 181 and 182 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR.      

Signature of Witness: (signature)

Upon explanation of Article 17 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the RSFSR I.T. Danilchenko stated that he is fluent in the Russian language and that he would give his statement in the Russian language.

Signature of Witness: (signature)

Questioning began: 10.00am  

In response to the questions asked, I.T. Danilchenko stated:

I served as an SS guard in the Sobibor concentration camp in Poland from March of 1943 through March or April (I cannot now precisely remember) of 1944. The camp was located near a small railroad station called Sobibor, near the edge of a forest and was designed for mass killing of persons of Jewish nationality from the Soviet Union, Poland, Holland and other nations occupied by the Nazis. Jews from Germany were also killed here. The camp covered approximately four square kilometres and was surrounded by four rows of barbed wire 3m high. There were two entrances into the camp which were closed by wooden gates on the side of the wire barrier facing the railroad siding. One gate was designed to admit railroad trains into the camp, while the other was designed for trucks. There was a smaller gate in the second gate through which Germans and guards passed.

A railroad platform was built in the camp, near the railroad siding, on a level with the doors on the freight cars. This was the spot where the people brought to the camp in railroad cars to be killed were unloaded. The platform was separated from the general territory of the camp by a single row of barbed wire. A passage, also surrounded by barbed wire, led from the platform to an area where the prisoners were ordered to leave their belongings. Another passage 30-40 m long, surrounded by barbed wire, led from this spot, the people were led along this passage to so-called “dressing rooms,” where they were forced to strip naked. The women’s hair was also cut off here. The Germans and the guards took valuables (gold rings, earrings, watches etc.) from the prisoners. A passage approximately 3m wide densely surrounded by barbed wire intertwined with twigs and branches led from the dressing rooms.

The naked people were driven along this passage to a large stone building with what was called the “showers.” Actually, this was a gas chamber where the arriving Jews were killed in six gas chambers (250 persons in each) by exhaust gasses from diesel engines which were located near the gas chamber. I remember hearing from other guards (I cannot remember their names) that there were two such diesels, supposedly from tanks. I did not personally see these engines, and I do not know precisely where they were located in the area of the gas chamber. This final passage was densely surrounded by armed guards on both sides, right up to the very doors of the gas chamber. When the doors of the gas chamber were opened, the people were driven into the chambers by Germans and guards from a special detachment which worked only in this area of the camp.

The guards guarded the prisoners from the moment the freight cars were unloaded right up to the gas chamber in order to prevent attempts to escape and to eliminate panic and disorder which might arise among the prisoners.

With the aid of the guards, when unloading the freight cars the Germans announced to the Jews that they would be disinfected in Sobibor and then sent to work. Therefore in the majority of cases the people walked calmly along the passages, right up to the doors of the gas chamber. Armed guards stood on both sides of the passages, ready to open fire at the slightest sign of resistance among the prisoners. From conversations with the guards I know that after the people were killed in the gas chamber their bodies were loaded on trolleys which ran up to the “showers” on a railroad branch line and then hauled a short distance from the area of the gas chamber, stacked on a trestle of rails and burned.

A special detachment of 50 men consisting of German Jews who were prisoners in the camp burned the bodies under the supervision of the Germans. The Jews from this detachment lived in a barracks in the area of the gas chamber. The outside of the barracks was guarded round-the-clock.

The gas chamber building and the place where the bodies were burned were carefully camouflaged by the Germans with trees. However, everyone always knew when bodies were being burned, since the flame blazed over the camp, the glow could be seen for several kilometres and the unique stench of burnt flesh could be smelled in the air. I do not know who ran the diesel engines. It is possible that they were guards, but I do not know who specifically they were. As a rule, all Jews brought to the camp were killed on the very same day. Actually, this was a factory for the mass killing of people. For six months after my arrival at the camp, an average of one or two trains delivered prisoners to the camp daily. There were approximately 25 freight cars in each train, more or less. Each car contained roughly 50-60 prisoners. All of the Jews delivered were killed on the very same day, and those who were not healthy enough to walk to the gas chamber themselves were shot in the area of the gas chamber in a so-called “infirmary.”

Approximately 1500 Jews were killed in the camp each day. It is difficult for me to provide a more precise estimate of the number of prisoners killed each day, but there were at least 1500 of them. These included women, elderly persons and children. In addition, Jews from nearby ghettos were delivered in 5-6 trucks, with 20-25 persons in each. By late 1943 the trains full of prisoners had begun to arrive more rarely, and by the spring of 1944 they had completely stopped arriving. During this period Jews who were still being delivered from the ghettos were killed in the camp, but deliveries of prisoners from the ghettos also became more rare.

The superintendent of the camp was a German SS officer, whose name and rank I have forgotten. At the time he was 35-40 years old, tall and well-built. I cannot now specify his other features, since so many years have passed since then. There was a company of SS guards consisting of approximately 120 men in the camp. The company consisted of four platoons with approximately 30 men in each platoon. The company commander was a German SS officer. The platoon leaders were guards of German nationality. The commander of the 1st platoon in which I served was also of German nationality. I remember that he was either from the Donbas or from Zaporozhe. I do not remember his last name, but he was called Karl. Because he was short, the guards gave him the nickname Karlik. I do not remember the other platoon leaders.

The platoons were formed according to height. Guards at least 180cm tall served in the 1st platoon. At that time I was 184cm tall. Of the guards who served with me in the 1st platoon I remember Ivan Ivchenko, who was our cook and Ivan Demjanjuk. When I arrived at Sobibor, Demjanjuk already served in the camp as a private in the SS guards.

I do not know Demjanjuk’s patronymic. From conversations with Demjanjuk I do know that he was from Vinnitsa Oblast. He was roughly 2-3 years older than I, had light brown hair with noticeable bald spots at that time, was heavyset, had gray eyes and was slightly taller than I, roughly 186-187cm tall.

I remember Demjanjuk’s appearance well, and I could possibly identify him. I do not know directly from where and when precisely Demjanjuk arrived at Sobibor. From what Demjanjuk said I know that like all of us (the guards) who served in Sobibor he had been trained at the SS camp in Trawniki. I saw Demjanjuk for the first time when I arrived at Sobibor, he was already there.

Demjanjuk told me that he served in the Soviet Army and had been taken prisoner by the Germans early in the war. I do not know under what circumstances he was taken prisoner. It is possible that Demjanjuk told me about this, but I cannot remember now. I do not know whether he had any wounds. I personally did not see any traces of wounds on Demjanjuk. At Sobibor, Demjanjuk served as a private in the SS guard and was dressed in a black SS uniform with a gray collar. He was always armed with a loaded rifle.

While standing guard outside the camp Demjanjuk, like the other guards, was issued a sub-machine gun and ammunition. While at his post he was obligated to make sure that there were no attempts by outside persons to enter the camp or attempted escapes from it. Demjanjuk, like all guards in the camp, participated in the mass killing of Jews. I also participated in this crime and I was convicted and punished for it. While I was at the camp I repeatedly saw Demjanjuk, armed with a rifle, together with other guards and, in many cases, myself, guard prisoners in all areas of the camp, from the unloaded platform to the entrance into the gas chamber. Demjanjuk escorted people until they reached the gas chamber to avoid violations by the prisoners of the “procedure” in which they were sent to be killed.  I cannot specifically say under what circumstances or how many groups of prisoners Demjanjuk escorted to the gas chamber during his service at the camp, since this was constant, daily work.

I did not see whether Demjanjuk shot anyone while they were being sent to the gas chamber. Such cases occurred in the camp if the prisoners showed any kind of resistance. It is difficult for me to say who shot the sick and weak prisoners in the “infirmary.” It is possible that they were shot by guards on orders from the Germans, but at present I can state nothing specific about this. I do not know whether Demjanjuk participated in the shootings of sick prisoners. Together with Demjanjuk I had to guard the place where the prisoners were unloaded from the railroad cars. I saw Demjanjuk and other guards push the Jews with rifle butts and hit them, this was a common occurrence during unloading. it is therefore difficult to single out the actions of Demjanjuk in treating the prisoners.

Demjanjuk was considered to be an experienced and efficient guard. For example, he was repeatedly assigned by the Germans to get Jews in surrounding ghettos and deliver them in trucks to the camp to be killed.

I did not receive any such assignments, since I did not have sufficient experience. Demjanjuk also guarded the outside of the barracks for the special detachment which serviced the gas chamber. I saw him at this post many times, carrying a rifle. I do not know whether he served guard duty inside the gas chamber zone. As I remember, Demjanjuk was frequently granted leave because he conscientiously carried out all orders from the Germans.

In March or April of 1944, Demjanjuk and I were sent from Sobibor to the city of Flossenburg in Germany, where we guarded an aircraft factory and a concentration camp for political prisoners. In case we were wounded, all of the guards at this camp, including Demjanjuk, were given a tattoo on the inside of the left arm, above the wrist, designating their blood type. I still have this tattoo, the German letter “B” designating my blood type. I do not know what letter designated Demjanjuk’s blood type. In late autumn of 1944, in October or November, Demjanjuk and I (among other guards) were sent to the city of Regensburg, or rather from the concentration camp located 18-29 km from Regensburg.Until April of 1945, we guarded the prisoners in this camp, who did construction work. In April of 1945, due to the approach of the front the entire camp was evacuated and marched toward the city of Nuremburg. I escaped along the way but Demjanjuk continued to accompany the prisoners. I suggested that he escape with me, but he refused. I have never seen Demjanjuk since then and his fate is unknown to me. I also know nothing about the fate of the prisoners who were on that march.

The questioning was completed at 6:15 pm. The questioning was conducted with a rest break. I have read the record and my statements were recorded faithfully into the record from my words. I have no additions or corrections to make.      

Signature of Witness: (signature)

Ignat Danilchenko

Questioned by: Department Procurator, Senior Legal Counsel

(Signature)  N.P. Kolesnikova

Xerographic copy authentic: Deputy Chief of Office, Procuracy of the USSR (Signature) P.I. Ryakhovskikh

Authors Notes:

Karlik – a derivative of the name Karl, also means “dwarf” in Russian.

The dates of service at Sobibor are incorrect, as the camp was closed by November 1943, following the prisoner revolt on the 14 October 1943.

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