Alan Dershowitz   Letter 01   15-Sep-1997   Are you sure about John Demjanjuk?
"There was just one problem.  Horn's testimony was false." Fredric Dannen
September 15, 1997

Alan Dershowitz
Harvard Law School
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA
USA        02138

Dear Mr. Dershowitz:

While browsing the web, I came across the following statement which was attributed to you, and which I take to mean that you have no doubts concerning John Demjanjuk's guilt:

The tragedy is not that John Demjanjuk lost 16 or 17 years of his life.  The tragedy is that he had 20 to 25 good years of his life with his family after the Second World War.  His victims didn't have those good years. (http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi/people/d/demjanjuk.john/synopsis-background)

What I would like to ask is how you reconcile your conclusion as to John Demjanjuk's guilt with some of the weaknesses in the case against him?  We might start, for example, with some of the weaknesses revealed in the following passage from Fredric Dannen's Vanity Fair article of June 1992:

Horn had known Ivan the Terrible well; they had worked together closely for a year.  On November 14, 1979, O.S.I. attorney Norman Moscowitz interviewed Horn at his home in West Berlin.  Moscowitz brought with him two sets of eight photographs, with a picture of Demjanjuk in each set.  Three months later, on videotape, Moscowitz asked Horn to recount what had happened at their meeting.

MOSCOWITZ: Would you describe, in your own words, how these photos were shown to you? ...

HORN: First I was shown these large pictures....

MOSCOWITZ: Did you in fact identify or recognize someone in those photographs?

HORN: Yes. This Ivan.

MOSCOWITZ: Were you shown another set of photographs aside from these which we've just discussed?

HORN: Yes.

MOSCOWITZ: When you looked at those photographs this other set where was this first set of photographs?

HORN: They had been removed again.

In short, a positive identification from a crucial witness, which placed Demjanjuk at Treblinka.  There was just one problem.  Horn's testimony was false.

John junior [son of Ivan Demjanjuk] and Ed Nishnic [son-in-law of Ivan Demjanjuk] found this out some years later, under most unusual circumstances.  In the late 1980s, the O.S.I.'s janitor was in the habit of disposing of the agency's garbage in a dumpster at a McDonald's restaurant on K Street in Washington, D.C.  Unbeknownst to the O.S.I., a Demjanjuk sympathizer was lifting the plastic garbage bags and turning them over to the family [of Ivan Demjanjuk].  Donning gloves and coveralls, John junior and Nishnic spent countless hours sifting through the refuse, sometimes having to tape together pieces of documents that had been ripped up.

In one bag they found, fully intact, the original set of reports prepared by O.S.I. investigator Bernard Dougherty Jr. and historian George Garand, both of whom had accompanied Norman Moscowitz to Berlin for the Otto Horn interview.  Their reports, written a few days after that meeting, describe in mutually consistent detail what actually occurred.

When Horn was shown the first set of eight photographs, he "studied each of [them] at length but was unable to positively identify any of the pictures, although he believed he recognized one of them (not DEMJANJUK)....  The first series of photographs was then gathered and placed in a stack, off to the side of the table with that of DEMJANJUK lying face up on top of the pile, facing HORN [emphasis added by Dannen]."  Next, Horn saw a picture of Demjanjuk in the second stack and made the surprising observation that it was the "same person" as the man in the photo lying suggestively on top of the first stack.  At long last, he identified Demjanjuk as Ivan of Treblinka.

To compound the injury, when Nishnic and John junior let it be known that they had found this incriminating garbage, the Justice Department launched an F.B.I. probe accusing them of theft of government documents.  (Fredric Dannen, How Terrible is Ivan?, Vanity Fair, June 1992, p. 174)

The above passage is pregnant with several provocative conclusions, specifically that:

  1. Treblinka SS member Otto Horn's photo identification of Demjanjuk was conducted using improper procedures;

  2. an attempt was made to destroy exculpatory evidence specifically, the truthful account of the Otto Horn photo identification;

  3. the subsequent Otto Horn testimony was perjured;

  4. O.S.I. (Office of Special Investigations) attorney Norman Moscowitz was aware of all of the above, as were others at O.S.I.; more specifically, Norman Moscowitz was aware that the evidence which he himself was adducing from Otto Horn was perjured, and in consequence of this and other breaches of ethics, Moscowitz was eventually cited for prosecutorial misconduct.

Now the above does not constitute an overview of the most serious defects of the case against Demjanjuk, but rather only a few defects that happen to be captured in one fairly short passage.  However, it does provide a convenient place to begin a discussion.

So, what do you think? Do the four prosecution characteristics of using an improper identification procedure, attempting to destroy exculpatory evidence, relying on perjured testimony, and knowingly adducing perjured testimony do these four characteristics do anything to shake your conviction in the guilt of John Demjanjuk?

Sincerely yours,

Lubomyr Prytulak