Holocaust Survivors Hope John Demjanjuk Trial Will Bring Closure

Nov. 27, 2009
No, no, says Rudie Cortissos, his family didn’t originally come from Greece, the name just sounds Greek. They were Sephardic Jews from Portugal, he says.

PHOTO John Demjanjuk goes on trial Monday in Munich on 27,900 counts of accessory to murder following 30 years of legal efforts against Demjanjuk on three continents.

In this Feb. 28, 2005 file photo, John Demjanjuk arrives at the federal building in Cleveland, Ohio…. Expand

(Mark Duncan/AP Photo)

Cortissos is sitting at the dining room table of his bright and spacious apartment in Amsterdam. He is surrounded by plush carpets, cut-glass decanters, silver bowls and wooden sculptures from Africa and Asia — the inventory of a successful life. Cortissos, 70, now retired, saw the world as a pharmaceuticals representative. His wife lifts up the framed photos from the sideboard, one by one: two children, four grandchildren.

Cortissos only has one photo of his mother Emmy. It shows a beautiful young woman. He also has the letter that she wrote to her husband and son, who were able to remain in their hiding place. She threw it from the train before it started heading east on May 18, 1943. Cortissos starts to read the letter, but his voice cracks with emotion. He takes off his horn-rimmed glasses and wipes his eyes with the sleeve of his suit jacket. “Words of encouragement,” says Cortissos. “She had absolutely no idea what was going to happen.”

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