The UK's only war crimes trial took place in 1999 and had its origins in the horrors of the Holocaust, but only now in The Ticket Collector from Belarus can the full story be told.
The Ticket Collector from Belarus tells the remarkable story of two interwoven journeys. Ben-Zion Blustein and Andrei Sawoniuk were childhood friends in 1930s Domachevo, a holiday and health resort in what is now Belarus. During the events that followed the Nazi invasion in 1941, they became the bitterest of enemies. After the war, Ben-Zion made his way to Israel, and ‘Andrusha the bastard’ to England, where he found work as a British Rail ticket collector in London.
They next confronted each other in the Old Bailey, over half a century later, where one was the principal prosecution witness, and the other charged with a fraction of the number of murders he was alleged to have committed. There was no physical evidence, just one man’s word against another, leaving the jury with a series of agonising dilemmas: Could any witness statement be trusted so long after the event? Was Andrusha a brutal killer, a hapless pawn or a scapegoat? And were his furious protests a sign of guilt or the justified anger of an innocent old man?
Mike Anderson was gripped by the story, and so began his quest to find the truth about this astonishing case and the people at its heart. As he discovered, it was even more remarkable than he could ever have imagined.
Mike Anderson is a senior employee of one of the world's oldest private banks. He considers himself fortunate to have stumbled across this extraordinary true story and has been relentless in his pursuit of the tale of Britain's only successful war crimes prosecution and the parallel lives of Ben-Zion Blustein and Anthony Sawoniuk.
Neil Hanson is the author of a dozen acclaimed works of narrative non-fiction, including The Unknown Soldier, The Confident Hope of a Miracle, The Custom of the Sea and The Dreadful Judgement. They have been hailed by critics around the world as 'astonishing', 'brilliant', 'haunting', 'extraordinary', 'a triumph' and 'a masterpiece', and compared by one to 'Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and a dozen other immortals'.
'In this brilliantly gripping mix of true crime and narrative history, Mike Anderson and Neil Hanson tell the story of the first and only war crimes trial to be held on British soil... To their great credit, Anderson and Hanson avoid piling on the horror, letting the court transcripts speak for themselves.'
– Kathryn Hughes, Sunday Times
'Here we meet the gulf whose existence is so well illustrated in this book - that between court truth and historical truth. One of the great values of Anderson and Hanson's excellent work is to demonstrate that there are several distinct kinds of justice.'
– David Aaronovitch, The Times
'A riveting and haunting book that raises important questions about how far justice should reach when confronted with the worst of crimes.'
– Roger Alton, Daily Mail
'Sawoniuk ignored the advice of his own lawyers and took the stand. The old man's angry testimony is the high point of the book... The authors have interviewed most of the key players in this heart-rending tale and the result is a sensitive and well-balanced account of an extraordinary moment in British legal history.'
– Saul David, Sunday Telegraph
'An extraordinary tale, not least because of the light it throws on on the persistence and thoroughness of the British legal system... The account of how he was finally identified and tracked down makes lively reading... It makes for fascinating reading.'
– Caroline Moorehead, Spectator
'Engrossing. The book...arrive[s] in gift-wrapped form for any smart TV or film producer - with characters who don't so much as jump but leap off the page and into your imagination. Forgive the hyperbole but this is thestorywitheverything... A terrific achievement.'
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