Kyiv Post | 19May2011 | Askold S. Lozynskyj
Demjanjuk: Dreyfus in
Holocaust survivors are living longer than expected.
Reparations being paid by Germany have proven inadequate to compensate.
Israel requested more money. Germany sought alternative sources.
A theory was advanced that Nazi Germany could not have accomplished
“the final solution” without the assistance of non-Germans.
J. Demjanjuk case, although deeply flawed, was the most
prominent unresolved case involving the Holocaust. The United States,
having taken away Demjanjuk’s U.S. citizenship for a second time,
hastened to find him deportable.
Germany agreed to the charade, but did not request extradition as that
would have necessitated a thorough investigation as to what Germany was
planning to do and upon what grounds. Germany issued a warrant despite
an incomplete investigative file and the United States simply deported
Demjanjuk to Germany.
Finally, in essentially a show trial, the German judicial system
relinquished any pretense at propriety and independence. It simply
carried out the German government’s political agenda.
Demjanjuk never had a chance in Germany. He was accused of almost
28,000 counts of accessory to murder. True he wasn’t directly
responsible for any death.
There wasn’t even an allegation of personal involvement of abuse. His
alleged crime was being at Sobibor, a killing camp. Except that no
witness from Sobibor could identify him. So an old piece of compromised
Soviet evidence was dredged up.
Even the FBI acknowledged that it was likelya forgery. Nonetheless, the
show had to go on and the court had to convict. Otherwise, the entire
political exercise would have been exposed as a sham. And so the German
court convicted, then sentenced a 91-year-old Ukrainian American,
former Red Army prisoner of war, on almost 28,000 counts ofaccessory to
In the 1890s and early 1900s another country, France conducted a
similar quasi-judicial sham exercise of its own concoction. The case
involved the conviction for treason, ironically on behalf of Germany,
of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a French artillery officer of Jewish descent.
The evidence against him was egregiously inadequate. But French
societal anti-Semitism insisted upon conviction. Two years later new
evidence appeared which clearly exposed another perpetrator. The latter
was brought to trial, but France could not let go of anti-Semitism, so
the real perpetrator was acquitted. The conviction of the Jew was
affirmed despite the obvious. Finally, Dreyfus was exonerated, but only
12 years after his initial conviction and after French society’s thirst
for Jewish blood had subsided.
The Demjanjuk case is Dreyfus in reverse. Dreyfus was a glaring example
of injustice resulting from extreme societal anti-Semitism so severe
that it affected the entire country, its political and judicial systems
and even the media.
Demjanjuk is an equally glaring example of injustice, resulting from
just the opposite - extreme societal pressure not to appear
anti-Semitic by failing to somehow honor the victims of the Holocaust
through the punishment of their tormentors whether they actually did
anything or not.
There is another problem, aside from the perversion of justice and the
obvious inhumanity. This problem is more subtle than the irony of the
perpetrator standing in judgment over his own victim.
Even assuming facts not in evidence, to wit, that Demjanjuk was ever at
Sobibor, by every account he was a prisoner of war in German servitude
under penalty of death. He could neither disobey nor flee. Now that
Germany holds out the illusion that it has conducted a proper judicial
proceeding, Germany has the duty to pursue every cog in its Nazi
apparatus, willing and unwilling, every guard and every soldier. But
Germany has enacted legislation precluding prosecution of any such
The case of Demjanjuk is now an international conundrum. Germany most
certainly should have its already bloody hands full prosecuting or
explaining selective prosecution. The United States is equally at fault
for pandering to a fringe bloodthirsty Jewish constituency in the
instant case, should be busy in its continuing role as Germany’s
Russia is affected, since often as in the Demjanjuk case, its Soviet
labs offered primary sources of fabricated evidence which served as the
basis for convictions.
Despite the apparent demise of the Soviet Union, Russia’s archives
remain. But then Russia is immune to criticism since it neither abides
by nor respects the rules of a civilized society. Israel appears quite
respectable, having accused, investigated, tried and then dismissed all
charges against Demjanjuk including any Sobibor role.
The only blemish is that it held Demjanjuk on death row for five years.
Perhaps that pales with his entire more than thirty year ordeal
proclaiming his innocence. Seeking additional reparations for its
citizens cannot be considered improper. In fact, it was obligatory upon
On the other hand there is that part of the global Jewish community
which could not accept Demjanjuk’s innocence, the findings of the
Israeli courts or the rule of law. Many concerned Jews disagreed, yet
remained silent. But then, that’s precisely why anti-Semitism exists to
this day. Today it’s being fed by extremist Jews themselves and the
silence and acquiescence of others.
Askold S. Lozynskyj is a New York City lawyer and former president of
the Ukrainian World Congress