Cleveland Jewish News | 21Aug2009 | Marilyn H. Karfeld
Ex-Nazi found guilty by court
that will try John Demjanjuk
Earlier this month, a German court sentenced former Nazi officer Josef
Scheungraber to life in prison for ordering the murder of 10 Italian
civilians in World War II. The June 1944 slaughter was revenge for the
killing of two German soldiers by Italian partisans.
[W.Z. It is
my understanding that, according to the rules of war, it is not
considered "illegal" to execute innocent civilians in reprisal for the
killing of military/occupying personnel in occupied territory.
Presumably, this is to discourage civilian support for partisan attacks
on occupying personnel. This had particularly horrendous implications
for Ukraine during WWII. The Soviet "Red" partisans (who were bitter
enemies of the UPA, which fought for Ukrainian independence)
deliberately killed German occupying personnel so as to elicit
"reprisal killings" of innocent Ukrainians by the Germans in the ratio
from 20:1 or even 50:1.]
A survivor of the massacre testified at the Munich trial, even though
he could not identify who ordered the mass murder. To prove their case,
prosecutors used historical documents and circumstantial evidence to
place Scheungraber, now 90, at the scene, the AP reported.
The Scheungraber verdict shows convictions are possible despite a
defendant’s old age and inconsistent eyewitness testimony, say legal
experts also following the upcoming murder trial of John Demjanjuk.
Demjanjuk, the Ukrainian native who immigrated to Cleveland after the
war, was deported to Munich in May. Last month, German prosecutors
indicted him on 27,900 counts of accessory-to-murder while a Nazi guard
at Sobibor death camp in spring and summer 1943. German documents, such
as an SS service pass and transfer roster, show Demjanjuk worked at
The judge in Demjanjuk’s trial, whose date has not been set, has
approved eight joint plaintiffs, whose relatives were killed at Sobibor
from April to July 1943, and prosecutors have lined up 22 witnesses
Last week, Demjanjuk’s attorney Ulrich Busch asked the Munich state
court to close the case, citing German legal precedent. Other German
courts have ruled that similar defendants who risked their lives if
they did not follow orders could not be held criminally responsible,
The prosecution is expected to challenge that argument, saying
Demjanjuk could have escaped from the concentration camps, as did other
foreigners conscripted into Nazi service.