|For a man with an open-and-shut case against John Demjanjuk, the great Nazi hunter seems nervous. And rightly he should be. For Ryan's reputation hangs on a five-year old accusation that becomes less and less credible, the closer one studies it.|
This falsification was a 'lie,' a 'perjury' that was father to many others, writes Ryan.
Why — if he were
innocent of war crimes — would Demjanjuk falsify his wartime experiences on his visa application?|
The answer is obvious. A conscript in the Red Army in 1943 Demjanjuk was wounded in the Crimea, captured by the Germans, interned as a POW at Chelm (Kholm), Poland, and, in 1944, recruited for Gen. Vlasov's 'Army of the Damned' to fight the Red Army. He wore the blood-group tattoo of the Eastern European Waffen SS. Had he told the Americans, to whom he surrendered in Bavaria in 1945, of his service alongside the Wehrmacht, he could have been 'repatriated' to Stalin under the allies' Operation Keelhaul, and shot at the railhead on his return to the Ukraine. Having concocted a story that he was a farmer in Poland during the war, Demjanjuk stuck with it on his visa application.
|"Well, now," Mr. Buchanan continued, "perhaps we shall know the truth. For the Soviets have, at long last, yielded the original up for the Israel trial. And the new question has arisen. Why is Demjanjuk's name nowhere to be found on either the Trawniki camp roster or the transfer list of Treblinka — both of which the defense now has?"|
The indispensable witness is Elijahu Rosenberg, the first of the Treblinka survivors to pick Demjanjuk's
picture out of an Israeli-arranged photo spread, and identify him as the sadistic camp guard of Treblinka. Yet
in a sworn statement given in 1947, Rosenberg declared that Ivan, the gas chamber operator, was beaten to death with shovels during the uprising of August 1943.
Which of Rosenberg's contradictory statements — both given under oath — is true?"|
"Other clouds have gathered over the credibility of Ryan's witnesses. Those clouds date to 1978 when another Ukrainian American, Feodor Fedorenko, was brought into court in a denaturalization hearing in Ft. Lauderdale.
Unlike Mr. Demjanjuk, Mr. Fedorenko admitted to having been at Trawniki and Treblinka, Mr. Buchanan said. He was subsequently deported to the Soviet Union.
The Florida judge believed Fedorenko — and found the evidence against him — the sworn testimony of the half a dozen survivor witnesses — 'fraught with conflict and uncertainty and ... therefore inconclusive.' These same men and women are the critical prosecution witnesses in the coming trial of Demjanjuk in Jerusalem.|
Again, Epstein is one. In Ft. Lauderdale, Epstein testified that he personally witnessed a cold-blooded murder by Fedorenko at Treblinka, a murder never mentioned in his earlier statement. Under cross examination, Epstein began contradicting himself and, as trial judge Norman Roettger describes it, 'began to squirm and fidget in the witness stand.'
Another witness against Mr. Demjanjuk, Josef Czarny is dubious, as well. In Mr. Fedorenko's trial, he was dismissed by the judge 'as a 'theatrical' figure, 'clearly the least credible of the survivor witnesses.' This description, though, would seem to belong to the witness Turowski who, asked to identify the camp guard Fedorenko, pointed to a middle-aged spectator in the back of the courtroom,
Mr. Buchanan continued.
Again, these are the men and women whose testimony has destroyed Demjanjuk's life and upon whom his
They have contradicted themselves under oath. They have contradicted each other. They have been contradicted by testimony of third parties. They are contradicted by the first-person accounts from Treblinka, produced in the immediate aftermath of the camp's destruction in 1943.
They call to mind those 11 'survivor witnesses' who testified under oath — and testified falsely — that they knew Frank Walus as the Butcher of Kielce, when hard evidence demonstrated that Walus was a farm worker in Germany at the time, who was too young, too short and of the wrong nationality (Polish) to belong to the elite Gestapo. No moral or legal sanction was ever imposed upon those 11 'witnesses,' whose falsehoods bankrupted and broke an innocent American.
|A copy of that original eight-picture display sits before me. Demjanjuk's and Fedorenko's photographs are twice the size of the others; they are clear, while the others are unfocused or cloudy. The Florida court declared the whole display 'impermissibly suggestive' and 'simply does not pass muster under American law.'|
Did 'Ivan the Terrible' ever exist?|
In my judgement, 'Ivan the Terrible' is probably a composite of Ivan, the gas chamber operator mentioned by Wiernik, the 'enormous brute,' the 'sadistic giant,' of Jean-Francois Cohen-Steiner's 'Treblinka,' (1966), the huge mesomorph that Polish villagers remember — a monster of a man who wenched and drank in their village near Treblinka, and who either died in the August uprising or perished in the Balkans with other Nazi survivors of the death camp.
The other half of the composite is, I believe, a German, a Nazi, a middle-aged veteran of Hitler's 'euthanasia' program, a man Alexander Donat describes as a 'hot-tempered, brutal individual and ruthless careerist,' seen 'running through the camps brandishing his whip and his gun, shouting and cursing,' a criminal one SS historian described as a 'conceited ogre.' His name was Christian Wirth, but he was known to inmates by a nickname — 'Christian the Terrible.' Wirth was killed by partisans near Trieste on May 26, 1944.
So let us review Ryan's airtight case.
Moscow had to be virtually dragooned into producing the only piece of documentary evidence against Demjanjuk: An I.D. card, the authenticity of which has yet to be fully established. Confronted by competent counsel in Ft. Lauderdale — as they were not in Cleveland — the Demjanjuk witnesses collapsed into a cacophony of contradictions. The Polish government is preventing Demjanjuk's counsel from visiting villagers near Treblinka whose testimony — that the guard 'Ivan' was a man twice Demjanjuk's age in 1943 and half again his size — could exonerate the accused. And the Israelis held Demjanjuk six months before lodging charges. Some airtight case.
Over to you, Mr. Ryan.