Kyiv Post | 11May2011 | Associated Press
Demjanjuk attorney: Client never
served as guard (updated)
MUNICH (AP) -- John Demjanjuk's attorney in his final closing remarks
Wednesday [11May2011] accused Germany of trying to minimize its own
guilt for the
Holocaust by prosecuting foreigners like his client, who is accused of
being a Nazi death camp guard.
A verdict was scheduled for Thursday in the trial, which began 18
months ago and has spanned some 100 days in court.
Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, who fought with the Soviet Red Army in World
War II, is charged with 28,060 counts of accessory to murder. He is
accused of agreeing to serve as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in
occupied Poland after being captured by the Nazis in 1942.
Defense attorney Ulrich Busch said Demjanjuk, a 91-year-old retired
Ohio autoworker, was a victim of the Nazis himself and had never served
as a guard in any camp.
He said Demjanjuk was first injured by the Nazis in fighting, then
faced near starvation as a prisoner of war.
Busch also noted that high-ranking Germans, such as the commander of
the Trawniki SS camp where Demjanjuk allegedly trained, had been
acquitted in the past by German courts.
"Should foreigners pay for the crimes of the Germans ... in order to
acquit Germany of its responsibility alone for the Holocaust?" Busch
asked the court in Munich.
Demjanjuk maintains that after he was captured he spent most of the
rest of the war in German prisoner of war camps, but the prosecution
says he agreed to serve the Nazis as a camp guard.
He lay in a bed during the hearing as he has for most of the trial,
wearing dark sunglasses and showing no reaction to Busch's remarks.
The prosecution has called for his conviction and six years in prison,
while Busch urged a full acquittal, his immediate release and
Busch said that even though his client never served as a Nazi guard,
other former POWs who agreed to work for the SS had no choice but to
He told the court the defense had presented more than 30 statements
from former prisoners who agreed to serve -- proving they faced death
they tried to escape guard duty.
Busch argued that even if the panel of judges hearing the case thought
Demjanjuk was a guard at Sobibor, the evidence meant he had no
alternative but to follow German orders.
He cited parts of several testimonies, including from a former
Trawniki-trained guard called Sergey Priedakov, whom he quoted as
telling interrogators that on his first day in a Nazi camp, they were
given words of welcome by a German translator for the SS.
"He said anyone who doesn't want to serve should step forward," Busch
quoted him as saying. "Then, he said anyone who steps forward will be
Cornelius Nestler, a lawyer for families of Sobibor victims who joined
the trial as co-plaintiffs as allowed under German law, dismissed
suggestions that it was unfair to prosecute low-ranking Nazi suspects
now because Germany showed less interest in doing so decades ago.
"Our society today has its own proper standards," he said outside the
courtroom. "That the standards of prosecution of Nazi criminals were
different in the 50s and 60s is not a reason to repeat the mistake
But Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., accused German prosecutors of
ignoring the facts.
"My dad is a survivor of the genocide famine in Ukraine, of the war
fighting the Nazis, of the Nazi POW camps ... and now of Germany's
attempt to finish the job left unfinished by Hitler's real henchmen,"
he said in an email to The Associated Press. "While some who refuse to
accept the history of that period may take satisfaction from this
event, nothing the Munich court can say will erase the true suffering
he has endured to this day."