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Nazi victim speaks out from beyond the grave at trial of 'SS death camp guard'

A letter thrown from a train taking more than 2,500 Jews to an extermination camp 66 years ago has surfaced at the trial of an alleged SS guard.

Emmy Cortisos wrote the letter three days before a Nazi overseer shoved her at bayonet-point into the gas chamber at Sobibor in Poland.

And yesterday the man who may have pushed her to her death sat less than 6ft away from her son at a Munich court.

Emmy Cortisos John Demjanjuk

Last words: Victim Emmy Cortisos's letter was read at the trial of John Denjanjuk

John Demjanjuk is accused of being an accessory to the murders of 27,900 people, including Mrs Cortisos.

But the 89-year-old showed no emotion as Rudolf Salomon Cortisos, 70, broke down in tears when testimony began at the trial yesterday.

Sobibor extermination camp in Poland, where Emmy Cortisos was killed

Mr Cortisos told the court that his mother's letter and a perfume bottle that once belonged to her were his most treasured possessions.

'The letter is the last thing I have of her, the last note that she put her thoughts down about us,' he said.

Mr Cortisos is one of a number of witnesses who lost loved ones in Sobibor during the months that prosecutors in Munich allege Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk worked at the camp.

John Demjanjuk
John Demjanjuk was photographed leaving the court in Germany earlier this week in a wheelchair

Emmy Cortisos was asthmatic and left her flat in Amsterdam on a May evening in 1943 to get some fresh air.

She was picked up on the street by the Nazi authorities and never seen again by her family.
Her husband and son were already in hiding with a Roman Catholic family in the city and the plan was for her to join them. She never did.

On May 17 she wrote her letter, addressed to Greet Knuyt, the woman sheltering her family.
She wrote: 'I am on a train taking us east to work with 2,500 others. It will be tough, I will definitely survive. There is nothing that can be done about this.

'I love you all and will think of you throughout the times ahead. I am certain everything will be all right. Please think of me.

'Give my love to my husband and my son, tell them I am all right. And give my love to my cousin on her birthday. Greetings to all, see you soon, lots and lots of kisses, Emmy.'
Three days later the train was in Sobibor. An hour after she arrived at the camp, Mrs Cortisos was dead.

Her son told the court: 'The letter was thrown from the train somewhere in Holland.
'My mother had left a note asking whoever found it to post it on to Greet. Someone did. My father never spoke about it. He died in 1959 and I found it in his possession.

'Not a day goes by when I don't read it. It breaks my heart but it gives me strength too.
'I wanted some emotional connection with Demjanjuk but I never got one. I only saw a cold, cold man. Did he kill my mother? Perhaps he did.'

Demjanjuk, who was tried and cleared in Israel in 1993 of being a guard at another extermination centre, neither confirms nor denies he was a volunteer with the SS.

If convicted of the charges he could face 15 years in jail.

The case continues.

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