By Michele Lesie, PLAIN DEALER REPORTER
Publication Date: December 15, 1991 Page: 1A Section: NATIONAL Edition: FINAL / ALL
Faced with growing evidence that John Demjanjuk and "Ivan the Terrible" are not the same man, Israel's Supreme Court could overturn the former Seven Hills autoworker's conviction and death sentence.
The five-judge panel hearing Demjanjuk's appeal is to meet Dec. 23 to consider a final round of documents. A date has not been set for a ruling.
Obtained from Soviet archives, the evidence strongly suggests a man named Ivan Marczenko, not Ivan (Ukrainian for John) Demjanjuk, was the brutal gas chamber operator Treblinka death camp inmates knew as "Ivan the Terrible."
Israeli prosecutors also are said to have found information in German archives that places Demjanjuk in a different death camp.
The Soviet documents are war crimes trial testimonies of 20 Treblinka guards tried in the Soviet Union between 1944 -- a year after the death camp was razed -- and 1961. All testified that Ivan Marczenko ran the gas chambers.
Most described him as dark-haired, heavy-set and in his 30s. Demjanjuk was light-haired and in his early 20s in 1942-43.
Nearly 900,000 Jews perished in 11 months in Treblinka, one of three camps the Nazis built solely for extermination in eastern Poland.
The guards" recollections of Marczenko's birthplace, date of arrival at Treblinka and time of service there do not concur with the Israeli prosecution's version of Demjanjuk's wartime history.
In addition, the guards" descriptions of Marczenko's atrocities match, almost verbatim, those of the Treblinka survivors who testified Demjanjuk was Ivan at his 1987 war crimes trial.
"He tortured the people, cut off the breasts of women, beat the men and set the dog on them ..." testified Pavel Lyeleko in February 1944. In 1961 another guard, Ivan Teryokov, said Marczenko "himself herded the people into the gas chamber, while doing so he mercilessly beat them with a lash or an iron pipe."
Finally, there is a photograph of two men, one of whom was identified as Ivan Marczenko by guard Sergey Vasylenko, according to the documents. "Marczenko, Ivan, motor mechanic of the gas chambers in the Treblinka camp," he told the court at his trial in 1961. "The Jews in the work crews called him Ivan the Terrible."
Prosecutors countered that Demjanjuk used Marczenko as an alias. It appears on an immigration form as his mother's maiden name. Demjanjuk claims he forgot her maiden name, which was Tabachuk, and substituted the common Ukrainian surname Marczenko.
The man in the photograph, however, is not Demjanjuk, said his lawyer, Yoram Sheftel.
If John Demjanjuk is not Ivan of Treblinka, then who is he?
The former Seven Hills autoworker continues to claim he was a Red Army soldier captured by the Germans in May 1942 and held in two prisoner-of-war camps, Rovno in western Ukraine and Chelm in Poland, until 1944. He has denied serving in any Nazi death camp.
Historians discredited his loosely constructed alibi. The court had little choice but to agree with prosecutors that in the summer of 1942 he served at Trawniki, a facility in Poland where POWs were trained to be death camp guards, before being assigned to Treblinka in the early fall.
He was there until Treblinka inmates revolted on Aug. 2, 1943, prosecutors claimed, except for a brief period of service at Sobibor, another death camp, some 60 miles away. He must have gone back and forth between the two camps, they said.
The Sobibor allegation appears in Demjanjuk's indictment to make sense of the "Trawniki card," a service pass from the training camp that places Demjanjuk in a farm labor camp called Okzow by September 1942 and in Sobibor by late March 1943. The card does not mention Treblinka.
Theoretically, the card (which judges ruled authentic after months of tests) places Demjanjuk elsewhere during Ivan's reign in Treblinka.
So does the statement of Ignat Danylchenko, a convicted war criminal who testified in 1949 (and again in 1979) that he served with Ivan Demjanjuk at Sobibor until they were transferred to another camp in Flossenberg, Germany.
Neither Israeli nor U.S. prosecutors entirely trusted the Danylchenko information, conducted privately by the Soviets at the request of American prosecutors. It was not turned over to Demjanjuk's defense until late in the trial, when lawyer Sheftel submitted it to the court -- but only to prove confusion as to his client's whereabouts, not to prove he was in Sobibor.
Judges must render a decision on evidence put before them, not on information lawyers allege is out there somewhere, intentionally suppressed or simply overlooked among the millions of World War II era files in Soviet and European archives.
In April 1988, the three-judge panel sifted through the clutter of his yearlong trial's myriad side issues and ruled the Treblinka survivors" testimonies were more believable than Demjanjuk's alibi. A week later, they sentenced him to death.
In Israel, the need to protect defendants from themselves and their lawyers, if necessary, was first acknowledged several thousand years ago. Israeli judges participate in proceedings to keep things clear and relevant. There is no jury. Theatrics are discouraged.
At the eleventh hour of Demjanjuk's trial, the troubled panel asked him to consider changing his alibi. In so many carefully chosen words, the judges implied the alibi would not hold up against the Treblinka survivors" devastating testimony.
They indicated that they were willing to risk the consequences of saying the survivors were mistaken -- an extremely painful decision -- if Demjanjuk would admit service at Trawniki and Sobibor, convince the court that Ivan Demjanjuk was there while Ivan the Terrible murdered in Treblinka.
Demjanjuk stuck to his original claim of innocence. That was more than three years ago. He remains in Ayalon maximum security prison, where he has remained since his extradition to Israel in 1986.
His appeal before a five-judge high court panel, like the trial, was fraught with delays.
In coming weeks, defense lawyer Sheftel is expected to argue that the testimonies of the 20 guards and of several Ukrainian women who were forced laborers in the death camp, and that of Maria Dudek, a Polish woman who claims to have slept with Ivan of Treblinka, should exonerate his client. All claim Ivan was Marczenko.
There is also independent documentary evidence -- the testimonies of two German SS officers at Treblinka -- that Ivan and his helper at the gas chambers (Nikolai Shalaev, whose testimony is also among the 20) were sent to the San Sabba concentration camp near Trieste, Italy, after Treblinka closed. No one knows what happened to him after that.
Sheftel was in Poland in March this year researching the surprising Dudek information, brought out last year by "60 Minutes," when investigators there told him testimonies of convicted Treblinka guards were on file in the Soviet Union.
The testimonies had been used in the case of Feodor Fedorenko, a Treblinka guard whom U.S. and Israeli authorities were searching for at the same time as Demjanjuk in 1976.
Like Demjanjuk, Fedorenko was stripped of American citizenship and ruled deportable to the Soviet Union. Israel's extradition request cut off Demjanjuk's deportation, but Fedorenko, who admitted being in Treblinka, was deported and tried in the mid-1980s. His execution was announced during Demjanjuk's trial.
Sheftel claims prosecutor Michael Shaked heard of the new Soviet information and quietly requested the files from Soviet authorities, who transferred the material from Kiev to Moscow and out of Sheftel's reach. He did not receive them until last August, after Demjanjuk threatened to go on a hunger strike, he said.
But it was Shaked who asked the appeals court for time to study the documents and made what is considered a telling statement: "Is there a difference if he pushed the boy (children who were murdered) into the gas chambers in Sobibor or Treblinka?"
Morally, many would say, there is no difference. Legally, there is. Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel on charges he was Ivan the Terrible.
Shaked has always adhered to the rule of not discussing a case in progress with the media, but sources familiar with the prosecutor's options say he will attempt to prove John Demjanjuk served as a guard at Sobibor.
He is alleged to have found, in Ukrainian and German archives, duty rosters and other documents from Flossenberg that place Demjanjuk there with Ignat Danylchenko after Sobibor. Demjanjuk's name, it is said, is followed by 1393 -- the same identification number on the Trawniki card.
Few but those who have closely followed this emotional, confusing, 16-year odyssey will recall that these were the original allegations against Demjanjuk in 1975. The editor of a pro-Soviet Ukrainian newspaper in New York reprinted part of Danylchenko's 1949 war crimes trial testimony and the Trawniki card, which alleged Demjanjuk served at Trawniki, Sobibor and Flossenberg.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service believed him to be a Sobibor guard until 1976, when Treblinka survivors in Israel identified him as Ivan the Terrible. That is what turned the tide.
The Treblinka survivors who testified against Demjanjuk in the courtroom were convinced he was Ivan. And, they were convincing. In light of the new evidence, the appeals court will no doubt reconsider Demjanjuk's lawyers" claims that the photo spreads used to identify him were suggestive and the identification sessions improperly handled.
British historian Gitta Sereny, author of "Into That Darkness," considered the standard work on the Treblinka death camp, offered the following in a recent piece on the dilemma in the London Independent.
"The answer, I think, is quite simple. They (Treblinka survivors) are tired with a pain of the soul that none of us can imagine. There were too many strong, happy, black-uniformed anonymous Ukrainians and Baltic guards at these terrible places:
"To the victims, who hardly dared raise their eyes to them, many of them looked alike."
TO REPEAT THE FOLLOWING SIMPLE FACTS IS NECESSARY, as the
Associated Press disinformation juggernaut refuses to take cognizance
ALL Jewish eyewitnesses testifying in Jerusalem that they had personally and closely known John Demjanjuk as Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka were lying, as it is today universally acknowledged that John Demjanjuk had never set foot in Treblinka, and as it has been shown that there never was any Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka:
It follows that it is possible that some or all Jewish witnesses (masquerading as "co-plaintiffs") in Munich may have been lying as well, and so should have been cross-examined, but were not, because in third-world-justice Germany, cross-examining anyone claiming to be a Holocaust survivor gets you thrown in jail.
AND, the Trawniki ID Card linking John Demjanjuk to Sobibor can be proven, a dozen times over, to be a KGB forgery, as can be read at
Germany is a nation that accomplishes miracles through the readiness of its citizens to obey orders. It was this capacity that led Germany to conquer Europe, and very nearly the Soviet Union. As this readiness to obey does not come with any ability to predict the future, this conquest could not be maintained. It is this same readiness that gives German factories the ability to produce exportable items of manufacture, and hence Germany's economic muscle. And it is this capacity for following orders that permits German judges to participate in show trials, again with no capacity to see what the future consequence will be -- eternal disgrace and shame for German justice and for German culture and for German mentality.
Read more: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/detail/104130/20/page/1/#comments#ixzz1M4JisFiz
Although somewhat exculpatory
of John Demjanjuk, this Plain Dealer story perpetuates as fact the
fiction of an Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka:
Approximately 99/100 John Demjanjuk stories that you will read in the mainstream press are unadulterated B.S.
The Ivan Marczenko evidence was a fraudulent fig leaf which
enabled Israel to get rid of Demjanjuk and NOT have to execute an
innocent man to appease the lynch mob frenzy it created. Cooler heads
prevailed and they predicted and smelled future Ukrainian Independence
and did NOT want to bear the burden of explaining why they created a
Ukrainain Dreyfus case. The Marczenko "evidence" (the photo is so
obviously fraudulent even YOU can detect the many stupidities in it
-- shadows that don't match,etc) gave them a way to save face (actually
cover their ass).
So the pressure was put on the puppets USA and Germany to make a clean "finish" of this and if revealed in the future for the political game that this always was let the puppets explain themselves while the neo-Pontius Pilate Israel has washed hands.