Kyiv Post | 27May2011 | Associated Press
Ukrainians back Demjanjuk,
convicted and stateless
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Convicted of Nazi war crimes, in failing health at
91 and lacking a country to call home, John Demjanjuk lives in a world
with few allies, save for the fellow Ukrainians who are determined to
help a man many of them say was a victim.
Supporters of Demjanjuk -- who lived for years in suburban Cleveland
worked in an auto plant before accusations arose that he hid his past
as a Nazi death camp guard -- have spoken out against his conviction,
nudged Ukraine to help, promised to lobby Congress and hope to see his
U.S. citizenship restored.
"If there's any way that we can help him get his citizenship
reinstated, we will do anything that we possibly can," said Tamara
Olexy, president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, an
umbrella group of Ukrainian-American organizations.
"He should be with his family," she said. "Our heart goes out to him
and his family being separate. It's terrible."
His son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said such support has been important.
"My father is and has always been very grateful for the support of the
Ukrainian community here and abroad," he told The Associated Press in
an email. "Indeed, if it were not for the unwavering support of the
Ukrainian community seeking fairness and justice, Israel would most
likely have executed an innocent man years ago."
Demjanjuk was convicted in Munich on May 12, 2011 of 28,060 counts of
accessory to murder as a guard at the Sobibor death camp. He was
sentenced to five years in prison but was released to await an appeal
that could take years. He's since been living in a nursing home on the
Pending the appeal, one of Demjanjuk's few options appears to be
fighting to regain his U.S. citizenship based on a 1985 FBI document,
uncovered in April 2011 by the AP, calling into question the
a Nazi ID card used against the Ukraine native at his trial.
The German trial and U.S. citizenship issue are separate, and the
federal judge in Cleveland who might handle the citizenship matter has
said Demjanjuk must serve his sentence in Germany.
Olexy said her organization will lobby Congress on Demjanjuk's behalf,
possibly for help regaining his citizenship, and urged Ukraine to help
him with a May 18, 2011 statement calling his trial a case of selective
prosecution that left him stateless.
No immediate help seems forthcoming from Demjanjuk's Ukrainian
homeland. One official's comments are open to interpretation.
"Ukraine as a state that suffered huge human losses in World War II of
course cannot remain indifferent to the case of Ivan Demjanjuk," said
Hanna Herman, deputy chief of staff to Ukrainian President Viktor
Demjanjuk lost his U.S. citizenship twice before, the first time after
the Justice Department alleged in 1977 that he hid his past as a Nazi
death camp guard known as "Ivan the Terrible." He ultimately was
convicted in Israel and sentenced to die, but the case was overturned.
Demjanjuk has always maintained he was a victim of the Nazis -- first
wounded as a Soviet soldier and then captured and held as a prisoner of
Frustration among Demjanjuk's backers is partly fueled by a common
feeling in the Ukrainian community that their native land was oppressed
in succession by Stalin, Hitler and then the Soviets.
"Ukraine was ravaged by the Second World War," said Askold Lozynskyj,
former president of the Ukrainian World Congress. "Russia wrote our
history, so as a result, we've been scapegoats for a lot."
From his vantage point after decades of legal proceedings, Demjanjuk
must know any resolution is years away.
The Ukrainian community has been a steadfast source of moral support
and financial help, but considering his age and multiple health
problems, interest in helping him this time around is somewhat tempered.
Since the conviction in Germany, neither Demjanjuk nor his family has
asked for help from the Ukrainian community, Lozynskyj said.
With Demjanjuk ensconced in the nursing home, Lozynskyj said, it's not
clear how much help he really needs.
Demjanjuk's stateless status is a rarity.
Some detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have
been described as stateless, and modern-day pirates have operated as
stateless individuals, marauding the high seas outside national borders.
Immigration attorneys in the U.S. said it was doubtful that Demjanjuk
would be allowed back in the country unless he regains his citizenship.
An American judge has suggested that a public defender recently
appointed in Cleveland to represent Demjanjuk's interests could revive
his U.S. denaturalization case using the FBI report that challenged the
authenticity of the ID card that was trial evidence.
The file indicated the FBI believed the card, purportedly showing that
Demjanjuk served as a death camp guard, was a Soviet-made fake.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal
Center, said it was disturbing to hear about support for Demjanjuk.
"I think this is a very upsetting phenomenon because the Ukrainian
community has consistently supported Demjanjuk even though there was
serious evidence from the very beginning that he was a participant in
the Final Solution," he said.
The hypocrisy of Efriam Zuroff is incredible! "There was serious
evidence from the very beginning that the OSI knew that he was innocent
and was withholding exculpatory evidence."]
Reaction was mixed in the Ukrainian community in Munich. Some pointed
out that higher-ranking Germans have been acquitted.
"He was a victim himself and had to react in this way, because he
needed to survive," said Rosalia Pankiewicz, a 64-year-old of Ukrainian
Minutes from Demjanjuk's neat ranch-style home in Seven Hills, Ohio,
his ordeal hasn't been a big topic in Parma's Ukrainian Village, a
quaint neighborhood of ethnic shops, cathedrals and Ukrainian gathering
spots, according to butcher George Salo.
Among his Ukrainian-American friends and customers, Salo said there's a
sense that the decades-long saga "is what it is," with little to be
done on Demjanuk's behalf.
"The guy is 91," Salo said, noting that Germany was the architect of
the Holocaust and continues to allow former Nazis to live there:
"They're having a double standard."
Nobody "volunteered" to be a death camp guard. The Germans kidnapped
Ukrainians at gunpoint and forced them to work in German factories,
many of which were bombed by the allies. Other Ukrainians were forced
to work at death camps. If they didn't, their families would be killed.
However, the Russians "voluntarily" collaborated with the Germans in
1938, resulting in Russia invading, and occupying Ukraine - and
committing hundreds of thousands of atrocities. So, when the German
forces arrived in 1941, Ukrainians were glad to be rid of the murderers
from Moscow. As a result, in 1944 when the Russians came back after the
German retreat, they labeled every western Ukrainian a "collaborator",
and tried to murder them. This is why many western Ukrainians had to
This is, at best, a simplification.
Of the "Russians" who drove the Germans out of Ukraine -- by June, 1943
37% of the the Red Army was Ukrainian. It's disingenuous to claim that
all of these: collectively the second-most-numerous and
second-most-decorated Soviet soldiery after Russians weren't committed
to the Soviet cause. 6 out of 14 Soviet field commanders at Stalingrad
What you've been taught is half the truth. As long as the one part of
the picture is the only thing you know, you're going to be easy prey
for anyone who howls against "Muscovites"; even when that howling is
inspired by Moscow.
Most Ukrainians who left when the Germans left in 1944 were fleeing the
Russians who were trying to kill them. They wound up in DP camps in
Germany and were allowed to emigrate to the US in 1949-50. Many were
forcibly returned to Ukraine by the US, and then were killed by the
Russians when they arrived back in Ukraine. Fortunately, the forced
resettling ended with most Ukrainians leaving for good. They formed the
anti-Russian diaspora in the US, Canada, Brazil, England and Australia.
None of them worked with the Nazis. They were simply fleeing for their