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Jerusalem Post | 18Mar2012 | Michael Dalder
Demjanjuk and justice
According to Germany’s Demjanjuk
even serving as an accessory to murder is a punishable crime.
["Accessory to murder" always was a crime; but being in the vicinity of a crime was not.]
By REUTERS/Michael Dalder; by JPOST EDITORIAL
In 1986, John “Ivan” Demjanjuk was
deported from the US to Israel to stand trial for committing murder and
acts of extraordinary violence against humanity during the years 1942
and 1943. Dozens of Israeli Holocaust survivors identified Demjanjuk as
“Ivan the Terrible,” a notorious prison guard at the Treblinka
Between November 1986 and April 1988 a special tribunal made up of
Supreme Court justice Dov Levin and Jerusalem District Court judges Zvi
Tal and Dalia Dorner heard the case, which was open to TV crews and
took place in Jerusalem’s International Convention Center.
Clearly, an effort was made to publicize the proceedings, which, like
the 1962 Adolf Eichmann trial, was used as a means of confronting the
horrors -- and the moral lessons -- of the Holocaust.
Like Eichmann, Demjanjuk was found guilty under the Nazis and Nazi
Collaborators (Punishment) Law of 1950 and sentenced to death by
hanging -- the second case of capital punishment in Israel’s history.
But Demjanjuk appealed and in 1993 the Supreme Court, sitting as an
expanded five-man panel of judges, overturned the lower court’s
decision. Justices Aharon Barak, Menachem Elon, Meir Shamgar, Eliezer
Goldberg and Avraham Halima -- basing themselves in part on new
that became available after the disintegration of the Soviet Union --
ruled that a reasonable doubt remained as to whether or not Demjanjuk
was in fact Ivan the Terrible. [W.Z.
The evidence that John Demjanjuk could not possibly be the fictious
"Ivan the Terrible" -- as claimed by the hallucinating "eyewitnesses"
-- was in the possession of the OSI during the Cleveland
denaturalization trial in 1981.]
Holocaust survivors and others brought at least 10 petitions demanding
that Demjanjuk be tried for lesser war crimes while serving as a guard
in other concentration camps including Sobibor and Majdanek.
But the attorney-general and the Supreme Court decided to let Demjanjuk
go based on legal technicalities.
Holding another trial would, they argued, violate the principle of
double jeopardy that prevents someone from being tried again after
being acquitted for similar offenses.
Also, since it was unclear whether Demjanjuk would be convicted based
on the evidence available, and another acquittal would deal a major
blow to the public sentiment, it was preferable to avoid another trial
While the Jewish state passed on the opportunity to convict Demjanjuk,
it was Germany of all places that decided to pursue the matter,
eventually convicting the Ukrainian in May 2011 for helping to murder
28,000 Jews as a guard at the Sobibor extermination camp.
However, Demjanjuk received a meager five-year sentence that Yoram
Sheftel, Demjanjuk’s defense attorney during his trial in Israel, noted
at the time was equivalent to the punishment one received for burglary.
Demjanjuk died outside prison walls in a German retirement home while
waiting for his appeal to be heard. Understandably, many --
Holocaust survivors -- were disappointed by Demjanjuk’s ability to
Indeed, the Demjanjuk case underlines the limits of justice. As the
Supreme Court justices noted in their 1993 decision: “Judges, who are
only human, cannot reach perfection, and it is only right that they
judge on the basis of what is placed before them, and on that basis
But even within the framework of justice all is not lost. The German
court’s conviction of Demjanjuk sets an important precedent, notes
Efraim Zuroff, a veteran Nazi-hunter who heads the Simon Wiesenthal
Center in Israel. In the past it was necessary to prove responsibility
for a specific death to convict a Nazi war criminal.
According to Germany’s Demjanjuk decision, even serving as an accessory
to murder is a punishable crime.
Satan looks forward to applying this "accessory to murder" definition
to a great many soldiers in the IDF, guards at Israeli
prisons, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and a whole host of other
locations around the world.]
Zuroff, who spoke to The
Jerusalem Post from Prague, estimates that about 4,000
Nazis and their helpers served in one of the four “death factories” --
Treblinka, Chelmno, Sobibor and Belzec -- or in the Einsatzgruppen
squads. Around 2 percent, or 80, remain alive, about half of whom still
fit enough physically to stand trial. The Simon Wiesenthal Center is
offering a 25,000 euro award for information leading to their capture.
The hunt goes on, while adhering to the limitations of justice.
[W.Z. In my opinion, Efraim Zuroff -- as well as his mentor, Simon Wiesenthal -- is/was an evil hate-monger.]