Toronto Star | 06Dec2009 | Lynda Hurst
Last chance for Holocaust justice?
The trial of an aging
former Nazi guard is delayed due to failing health. Is it time to call
off the hunt?
Is this the last Nazi war crimes trial?
Star's Holocaust Industry infomercial.]
As the clock ticks down on the life span of suspects, that may be an
obvious question. But the answer is anything but.
The trial of 89-year-old John Demjanjuk -- charged with participating
in the murder of 27,900 Jews in 1943 -- was halted three days after it
started last week in Munich.
The Ukraine-born former Ohio autoworker is accused of being a guard at
Sobibor, a Nazi death camp in Poland where most victims perished within
an hour of arriving by train, pushed by guards into carbon
monoxide-filled gas chambers.
Demjanjuk arrived in court variously by wheelchair, stretcher and
hospital bed and by Wednesday, had developed an infection. The case was
adjourned, tentatively until Dec. 21, 2009.
His family says he's terminally ill. Court doctors say he is frail, has
a bone marrow disease and heart murmur, but is fit to stand trial.
Appalled Jewish observers say he's faking or exaggerating his weakness
to portray himself as a victim.
"Listen, seeing him there in court, he belonged to Hollywood, not
Sobibor, so great was the act he put on," said Efraim Zuroff, head of
the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the world's
leading Nazi hunter.
Demjanjuk is the lowest-ranked person ever to be tried for war crimes.
The case, both for and against him, is complex and ultimately may hinge
on the statement of a dead man.
Drafted by the Soviet Red Army in 1941 and taken prisoner by the Nazis
in 1942, Demjanjuk has admitted being an SS guard from 1944 on -- but
at other camps, not Sobibor. And there are no living witnesses to place
This is disinformation by Ms. Hurst! Mr. Demjanjuk has NEVER "admitted
being an SS guard.]
There were the last time he was tried, when he was accused by Israel of
being Ivan the Terrible, a notoriously sadistic guard who operated the
gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp.
At the widely covered trial in 1988, five survivors identified him as
Ivan. Convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity, he was
sentenced to death by hanging. But Israel's Supreme Court overturned
the conviction in 1993, after evidence emerged casting doubt that
Demjanjuk was the brutal Ivan.
After that shocking twist, the distinguished Holocaust documenter Gitta
Sereny wrote that Nazi war-crimes cases should cease and the survivors
"be allowed to rest." As for the suspects:
"Every man who was guilty of foul deeds in that war, and in wars since,
must be in no doubt, until the day he dies, that the whole world knows,
and deplores, what was done."
The plea came too soon. When Demjanjuk returned home, U.S. government
investigators immediately began working on a second set of charges
involving Sobibor, which resulted in his extradition to a German
prison, in May of this year.
Remaining ex-Nazis will be as aged and possibly as infirm (to whatever
degree) as Demjanjuk. Witnesses to their actions have died. Is it time
now, as others besides Sereny argue, to call off the hunt for
individuals? Or, while there's breath still in their bodies, should the
There is no choice, says Avi Benlolo, president of the Toronto Friends
of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. "We must pursue these people no matter
how elderly or frail. Our job is to bring them to justice."
German prosecutors say Demjanjuk volunteered to be a guard and simply
holding that job in a death camp meant he took part in the gassing.
Though Demjanjuk denies the authenticity of a key piece of evidence --
a photo ID identifying him as a Sobibor guard -- U.S. and German
experts say it is genuine.
Other potentially damning evidence may come from statements made by a
now-dead Ukrainian, Ignat Danilchenko, who also was captured by the Red
Army, then a prisoner of the Nazis. In 1949, he told a Soviet war
crimes trial he'd been with Demjanjuk at Sobibor in 1943 and "like all
guards in the camp, Demjanjuk participated in the mass killing of
Jews." U.S. investigators, however, have said his statements contain
numerous factual errors.
Demjanjuk's defence argues he was a small cog in the Nazi death machine
and that other, more senior workers have escaped retribution. On the
first day in court, they said they'll rely on a 1976 West German trial
in which the commandant of a guard-training camp was acquitted.
Lawyer Ulrich Busch filed a motion saying the case should never have
been brought to trial, given this precedent. "How can you say that the
order-givers were innocent ... and the one who received the orders is
guilty?" he asked. "There is a moral and legal double standard being
The implication? Demjanjuk's prosecution is more akin to persecution,
doubly so because of his age and physical state.
As time runs out, those factors will increasingly take centre stage in
any reckoning to come.
This fall, a Spanish judge indicted three former death camp guards --
one in Austria, two in the U.S. -- with crimes against humanity. The
Americans are "both mentally and physically incompetent," says their
"It's up to the courts to decide on competence," counters Benlolo.
"For us, it's the process that's important, the precedent it sets for
other war criminals, in Bosnia and Rwanda, and in the future. They
should have a fear of being hunted down no matter how long it takes."
No, Demjanjuk's won't be the last trial, he says. "But there aren't
This fall, three other men on the Wiesenthal Centre's 10 most-wanted
list have been brought into the legal system:
Heinrich Boere, 88, leader of a Dutch SS death squad, is on trial in
Charles Zentai, 88, an ex-Hungarian soldier accused of beating an
18-year-old Jew to death, is fighting extradition to Germany from
Sandor Kepiro, a 95-year-old Hungarian accused of taking part in the
1942 Novi Sad massacre of 1,300 Jews, Serbs and Roma, was questioned in
September by Budapest prosecutors.
Since 2001, there have been 82 successful prosecutions of war
criminals, Nazi-hunter Zuroff said last month, but 702 cases are still
on file and will be pursued: "I expect to continue my work for another
three or four years, by which time the last of the war criminals will
The Wiesenthal Centre is still running its Operation Last Chance, begun
in 2002, offering up to $26,000 for information leading to suspects
still in hiding.
Germany is just as eager to continue. Last week, chief war crimes
prosecutor Kurt Schrimm said his team had stumbled on archives
identifying several hundred Germans who went to Brazil in the 1950s and
may be linked to the Holocaust. Schrimm plans to follow up on the lead
in the spring.
"As long as there's a possibility that these people are alive," he
said, "we'll continue our work."
When the Demjanjuk trial resumes, five relatives of some of the 250,000
Jews who died at Sobibor are to make statements. Camp survivor Thomas
Blatt, who doesn't remember Demjanjuk being there, will testify about
But what Blatt really wants is for Demjanjuk to speak: "There is no
price he could pay that would come close to his guilt. The victims are
dying out, the murderers are dying out. In 10 years it will all only be
history. I just want to hear the truth"
The only time Demjanjuk spoke in court last week was to mumble a prayer
He never opened his eyes once. [W.Z. This is simply not true.]
A life ruined by Nazi hunt
The April 13, 1983 issue of the Toronto Star included a profile by Dick
Chapman of the case of Frank Walus. Under the header "A life ruined by
Nazi hunt," it described a gross miscarriage of justice spurred by a
rush to judgment as prosecutors, led by Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal,
overlooked multiple red flags which collectively confirmed Walus could
not have been the Nazi war criminal they alleged. Chapman: "Wiesenthal,
Israeli police, the U.S. justice system and the media had the wrong
man." Chapman quoted Walus as he summed up the absurdity of the case
against him: "I was 16 or 17 years old at the time I was supposed to be
a top-ranking SS officer. How could you attain that rank at such an
early age?" No further comment.
Toronto Star | 10Dec2009 | Len Rudner
Lawyer's strategy is 'shameful'
Re:Last chance for Holocaust justice?
Toronto Star, 06Dec2009
The implication that the trial of John Demjanjuk represents a
form of persecution rather than prosecution is an affront to both the
victims of Nazism as well as its survivors. Demjanjuk's lawyer, Ulrich
Busch, may find it useful to cast aspersions upon the proceedings and
thereby gain sympathy for his client, but it is a shameful strategy.
We commend the dedication of the German authorities on this
matter as they pursue justice against the persecutors, on behalf of the
Len Rudner, Regional Director – Ontario, Canadian
Len Rudner initiated the complaint to the Canadian Human Rights
Commision (CHRC) against Dr. Lubomyr Prytulak and his ukar.org website.
Later, he was replaced by the Canadian Jewish Congress as the
complainant, which refused mediation such that the CHRC forwarded the
case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT). Before closing down
his UKAR website in disgust, Dr. Prytulak had disclosed the criminality
of the CHRC personnel involved in his case. There are increasing calls
within Canada to have the CHRC disbanded.]