Dov Alfon   Ha'aretz   14-Apr-1999   Demjanjuk persecution continues
France is considering asking the United States to extradite John Demjanjuk, sources in the French legal world told Ha'aretz yesterday.
Below is a report on the continuing persecution of John Demjanjuk which was printed in the English-language edition of the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz, appearing online at http://www3.haaretz.co.il/eng/scripts/article.asp?id=44318&mador=14&datee=4/.  The home page of Ha'aretz can be accessed by clicking on the Ha'aretz logo below.

Why persecute John Demjanjuk?

Given the utter collapse of the show trial of John Demjanjuk in Israel, one wonders what the Jewish motivation can be for continuing to pursue him so implacably.  All that the Ha'aretz article implicates Demjanjuk as having done is to wear a German uniform, but without there existing the slightest evidence that he participated in any crimes.

Jews who collaborated with the Nazis are afforded all manner of excuses, and any attempt to ascribe blame to them, as for example to the Judenrats, is criticized as espousing "the simplistic, distorted notion that ignores the extreme complexity which characterized the activities of the Judenrats."  In the case of Ukrainians accused of serving in German uniform, however, automatically attaching culpability is not viewed as simplistic, and ignoring complexity is not acknowledged as a danger.

Or, compare the two individuals mentioned in the article below.  Alois Brunner is said to have been Adolf Eichmann's deputy and is implicated in supervising the transfer of 25,000 Jews from France to Auschwitz.  Thus, Alois Brunner may have been high-ranking, and some seemingly-culpable actions have been ascribed to him.  John Demjanjuk, in contrast, is said to have been at worst at the very bottom of the chain of command a prisoner of the Nazis whose choice was to cooperate or to die and no culpable actions are ascribed to him.  And yet, for some reason, it is Demjanjuk who appears in the Ha'aretz headline and not Brunner.  And it was Demjanjuk who had already been featured in a Jerusalem show trial and not Brunner.  How to explain this seemingly disproportionate allocation of resources to the harrassment of John Demjanjuk?

(1) Never say die.  One reason that Jews persecute John Demjanjuk today, of course, may be that their earlier prosecution of him failed so utterly as to leave a black stain on the integrity of Israeli justice.  Jews today might calculate that any subsequent conviction of Demjanjuk on any charge having to do with World War II will partially vindicate their having prosecuted him earlier for having been Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka.  In any case, Demjanjuk is getting old, and the law works slowly, so that the Jewish hope might be that he dies in the midst of legal proceedings, thus relieving the prosecution of the embarrassment of bringing forward its paltry evidence, and yet succeeding in smearing Demjanjuk's name, and the name of all Ukrainians.

(2) Promote Jewish emigration.  To increase Jewish emigration from Ukraine to Israel, Israel needs to heighten Jewish fear and hatred of Ukrainians, which end is promoted by the portrayal of Ukrainians as Nazi henchmen in ongoing war crimes proceedings.  That such proceedings can be seen to be irrational and unwarranted is not a defect from the Israeli point of view, as this perception only succeeds in inciting Ukrainian resentment, which promotes the goal of increasing Jewish emigration.

(3) Preemptive strike against the victim.  Historically, Ukrainians have been victimized by Jews, most notably around the time of the Khmelnytsky rebellion of 1648, and during this century's Communist reign of terror in Ukraine.  Foreseeing that an independent Ukrainian nation once unmuzzled from totalitarian inhibition might well proceed to write its own history candidly and to level accusations against its oppressors, Jews today are executing a series of preemptive strikes against Ukrainians, hoping to so indelibly inculcate the image of Ukrainians as oppressors of Jews that the opposite image of Jews as oppressors of Ukrainians will have little chance of being believed.

Several loose ends.

The Ha'aretz article fails to comment upon details of the Demjanjuk affair that some readers might have found interesting.

France has no jurisdiction.  In the first place, there is the problem of extraditing John Demjanjuk to France and trying him there, when: (1) John Demjanjuk is not now, and never has been, a citizen or a resident of France, and never has had any connection whatever with the French state; (2) the crimes in question were not committed on French soil or within French jurisdiction; (3) there exists no evidence linking John Demjanjuk to any French victim of any crime; (4) there exists no evidence linking John Demjanjuk to any crime; (5) there currently exists an international war crimes tribunal which, unlike France, does have jurisdiction and which could be invited to investigate the case.  Of course the international tribunal is not being asked to investigate Demjanjuk's case because it is obviously too flimsy and petty.  But why, then, choose France to prosecute John Demjanjuk?  Perhaps the Jewish motive in choosing France repeats the French purchase of protection against being implicated in the Holocaust by means of French favors rendered to Jews.  Perhaps the Jewish selection of France to continue the persecution of John Demjanjuk is based also in part on the recollection of the French siding with Jews against Ukrainians in the acquittal of Shalom Schwartzbard of the charge of assassinating Symon Petliura in Paris in 1926, despite Schwartzbard's having confessed to having done so.

No Israeli court ever charged Demjanjuk with having been at Sobibor.  Furthermore, it is not entirely accurate for Ha'aretz to say that it had been proven in some Israeli court that John Demjanjuk had served as a guard at Sobibor, because as John Demjanjuk was never charged with having been a guard at Sobibor, he never defended himself against such a charge.  John Demjanjuk was charged with having been Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka and nothing else, and against this charge he did defend himself successfully.  It is yet another peculiarity of Israeli justice that it feels justified in drawing conclusions concerning questions that were never put before it, and concerning which the accused had no opportunity to provide input.

Yitzhak Arad testimony casts doubt on the existence of Treblinka and Sobibor as they are portrayed in Holocaust literature.  Finally, one might note that the first prosecution witness in the Demjanjuk trial in Jerusalem was head of Yad Vashem, Yitzhak Arad, who testified that not a shred of physical evidence remained of the existence of the camps Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec.  Some impartial observers might be puzzled to see a man repeatedly put on trial for crimes committed at locations whose very existence, according to the testimony of Yitzhak Arad, is in doubt the first time in Israel for crimes committed at Treblinka whose existence (as the death camp portrayed in Holocaust literature) is in doubt, and soon perhaps again, this time in France, for crimes committed at Sobibor whose existence (as the death camp portrayed in Holocaust literature) is also in doubt.

External link to Ha'aretz

France may ask U.S. to extradite Demjanjuk

By Dov Alfon, Ha'aretz Media Correspondent

PARIS France is considering asking the United States to extradite John Demjanjuk, sources in the French legal world told Ha'aretz yesterday.

Demjanjuk, suspected of being the notorious guard "Ivan the Terrible" at the Treblinka death camp, was tried for war crimes in Israel in 1993 but exonerated due to insufficient evidence.

The day after his release, an action was filed against Demjanjuk in France by French attorney Arno Klarsfeld, who represents an association of children whose parents perished in the Holocaust.

In the action, Klarsfeld, who is the son of Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, charged that Demjanjuk was proven during the Jerusalem trial to have served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp from March 27, 1943, to Sept. 30, 1943.  Despite the Jerusalem court's findings, he claimed, Demjanjuk could still be indicted for crimes against humanity.

According to Nazi records, French Jews were packed into four trains and sent from Paris to Sobibor during the time Demjanjuk was a guard there.

Those records offer the basis for a legal claim against the French government and for France's right to request that the United States extradite the former guard, the action stated.

The effort to revive the case against Demjanjuk gained steam after a document that suggests Demjanjuk was connected with Maidanek, another death camp, was unearthed in government archives in Latvia in 1995.

The association then amended its pending action to include the new information.

Meanwhile, the French daily newspaper Le Monde reported Friday that escaped Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann's deputy, is to be tried in Paris in absentia.

The paper said the trial was the result of French authorities' increasing impatience with Syria's unresponsiveness to extradition requests.

Brunner is considered responsible for planning the extermination of the Jews of Austria, Salonika and Slovakia, and for the systematic persecution of Jews in other countries occupied by the Nazis.

Between June 18, 1943, and the end of April 1944, Brunner is thought to have supervised the transfer of 25,000 Jews from France to Auschwitz.

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