Associated Press | 12May2009 | Roland Losch, Melissa Eddy
Demjanjuk in German prison for
Nazi guard charges
MUNICH – Sitting in a wheelchair and breathing through a nasal tube,
retired auto worker John Demjanjuk listened silently Tuesday as a
German judge read a 21-page warrant accusing him of acting as an
accessory to the murder of 29,000 people at a Nazi death camp.
Prosecutors in Munich made clear they hope to press ahead quickly with
the case against the 89-year-old, saying after the longtime Ohio
resident arrived in Germany that formal charges could be filed within
Demjanjuk said nothing as an interpreter translated the warrant into
his native Ukrainian, his lawyer Guenther Maull told reporters
"He understood what was being read to him," said Maull, who immediately
filed a challenge against the warrant, arguing the evidence was not
solid and Germany's jurisdiction questionable.
Demjanjuk says he was a Red Army soldier who spent World War II as a
Nazi POW and never hurt anyone.
But Nazi-era documents obtained by U.S. justice authorities and shared
with German prosecutors include a photo ID identifying Demjanjuk as a
guard at the Sobibor death camp and saying he was trained at an SS
facility for Nazi guards at Trawniki. Both sites were in Nazi-occupied
is the infamous Trawniki ID card which was originally tantalizingly
circulated by Moscow circa 1975 via New York Communist stooge Michael
Hanusiak. The Soviet Union embassy made it available for a short time
for the 1981 Cleveland denaturalization trial. During the 1987-1988
Jerusalem Show Trial it was delivered to the Israeli prosecution by KGB
operative Armand Hammer. Thereafter, it presumably remained in Israel
until it was delivered to the United States for the second May 2001
denaturalization trial. It has presumably remained in the United States
until recently, when it was taken to Germany to ensure that the German
authorities would not declare it a fake.
overwhelming concensus around the world that the Trawniki ID card is,
indeed, a fake. At the Jerusalem Show Trial, handwriting expert
Julius Grant categorically stated the card was a fake and no
handwriting expert in the world has ever testified that the Demjanjuk
signature (in green iron-free ink) on the card is valid.]
Efforts to prosecute Demjanjuk began in 1977 and have involved courts
and government officials from at least five countries on three
Sobibor survivor Samuel Lerer, who was 16 when he arrived at the camp
in the spring of 1942, welcomed Demjanjuk's deportation.
[W.Z. Did Samuel Lerer ever see Mr. Demjanjuk in Sobibor? If so, why didn't he identify him at the Jerusalem Show Trial?]
"My sense of justice is that he go on trial," Lerer told The Associated
Press from his Greenbriar, New Jersey home.
"This is about being an accessory to murder in 29,000 cases. That is an
accusation of monstrous crimes. At all times, we owe it the victims to
clear it up," Bavaria's state justice minister, Beate Merk, said.
"Above all in Germany, we have a very special responsibility."
Charges of accessory to murder carry a maximum sentence of up to 15
years in prison in Germany.
Prosecutors said formally pressing charges could happen "within a few
weeks" providing "no exonerating arguments are made." That would be
fast, as it can take months under Germany's justice system for charges
to be pressed.
A key step lies ahead: determining whether Demjanjuk is fit to stand
trial. Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said Monday his father is
dying of leukemic bone marrow disease and claimed he would not survive
a trans-Atlantic flight.
Dramatic photos last month showed Demjanjuk (pronounced dem-YAHN'-yuk)
wincing in apparent pain as he was removed by immigration agents from
his home in Seven Hills, Ohio, during an earlier attempt to deport him
to Germany. However, images taken only days earlier and released by the
U.S. government showed him entering his car unaided.
Anton Winkler, a spokesman for Munich prosecutors, said they had called
for an expert opinion. He said it could take up to two weeks for that
determination to be made, because a doctor would have to examine
Demjanjuk and observe him over time.
He indicated that Demjanjuk's health was satisfactory on arrival,
according to a doctor who examined him. Demjanjuk understood what was
being said to him and answered "yes" and "no" in German, Winkler said.
Merk said despite health concerns, the issue centered on justice.
"Murder does not fall under the statute of limitations, regardless of
the perpetrator's age," she said. "If the accusations are true, a
conviction and punishment are indispensable."
Earlier Tuesday, Demjanjuk -- stripped of his citizenship by a U.S.
court in 2002 -- arrived in Munich from Cleveland aboard a private jet [belonging to who?]
that taxied directly into a hangar. Munich prosecutors said he slept
for most of the trans-Atlantic flight.
From the airport, he rode in a police-escorted ambulance to a special
medical unit at Stadelheim prison, where Adolf Hitler spent several
weeks in 1922 after being arrested.
The deportation came four days after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to
consider Demjanjuk's request to block deportation.
Among the documents obtained by the Munich prosecutors is an SS
identity card that features a photo of a young, round-faced Demjanjuk
along with his height and weight, and says he worked at Sobibor.
German prosecutors also have a transfer roster for Sobibor that lists
Demjanjuk by name and birthday and puts him at the camp, and statements
from former guards who remembered him being there.
The U.S. Justice Department first moved to revoke Demjanjuk's U.S.
citizenship in 1977, alleging he hid his past as a Nazi death camp
Demjanjuk was tried in Israel after accusations surfaced that he was
the notorious "Ivan the Terrible" at the Treblinka death camp in
Poland. He was found guilty in 1988 of war crimes and crimes against
humanity but the conviction was overturned by the Israeli Supreme
That decision came after Israel won access to Soviet archives, which
had depositions given after the war by 37 Treblinka guards and forced
laborers who said "Ivan" was a different Ukrainian named Ivan
is blatant disinformation! The OSI had all these exonerating
documents in their possession during the 1981 denaturalization trial.
The Moscow trip by Israeli prosecutor Michael Shaked was just a
publicity stunt to convince the world public that they actually
obtained new information from the Soviets exonerating Mr. Demjanjuk.]
However, a U.S. judge revoked Demjanjuk's citizenship in again in 2002
based on fresh Justice Department evidence showing he concealed his
service at Sobibor and other Nazi-run death and forced-labor camps from
that the authors omit the information that Mr. Demjanjuk's citizenship
was restored in 1998(?) after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal under
Judge Gilbert Merritt ruled that the OSI was guilty of "prosecutorial
misconduct constituting fraud on the court."]
A U.S. immigration judge ruled in 2005 he could be deported to Germany,
Poland or Ukraine. Munich prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for him
Bringing alleged Nazi war criminals to trial more than six decades
since the end of World War II is proving increasingly difficult: Many
witnesses are dead or ailing, and time has clouded memory.
"It is a race against time," Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor
and Germany's main Jewish leader, said in a statement.
"For survivors of the Shoah, it is intolerable to watch how a suspected
Nazi war criminal, who knew no mercy for his victims, seeks sympathy
and compares his deportation to torture," she said, using the Hebrew
term for Holocaust.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center had listed Demjanjuk as its No. 1 wanted
"I think it is important that people, when they look at Demjanjuk, not
really see him as an elderly person, but think of the young man who in
his prime invested all his energy and efforts in the mass murder of
innocent men, women, and children," said Efraim Zuroff, the center's
Jerusalem-based top Nazi hunter.
Associated Press writer Melissa Eddy reported from Berlin. Christof
Ruehrmair in Munich and Ryan Lucas in Warsaw, Poland contributed to