The head of the unit was a car mechanic called Wim Henneicke who evidently had good connections in the Amsterdam underworld. He built up an extensive network of informants who told him where Jews were hiding. Some 100,000 Jews from the Netherlands were murdered in concentration camps, a far greater proportion than in Belgium or France.
However, in contrast with France, Dutch collaborators were quickly punished after the war. Some 16,000 were put on trial by 1951, and most of them were convicted.
Demjanjuk is a different category of perpetrator. He's not a collaborator or head-hunter, not a policeman of the sort that contributed to the Holocaust far away from the actual killing. He was at the scene, prosecutors say in their detailed arrest warrant.
In the coming days doctors will decide will decide whether and for how long Hitler's last henchman from Sobibor can be put on trial. The German government wants him to face trial. "We owe that to the victims of the Holocaust," says Vice Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Those who suffered in the camps under Travniki men like Demjanjuk don't feel any desire for revenge when they talk about him today. American psychoanalyst Jack Terry, who was imprisoned in Flossenbürg concentration camp while Demjanjuk was a guard there, says it would suffice if Demjanjuk "had to sit in his cell for even just one day."
And Sobibor survivor Thomas Blatt says he "doesn't care if he has to go to prison, the trial is important to me. I want the truth."
Demjanjuk could provide information about Sobibor -- and about the terrible world of the Holocaust helpers.
Reporting by Georg Bönisch, Jan Friedmann, Cordula Meyer, Michael Sontheimer, Klaus Wiegrefe