An Office of Special Investigations (OSI) press release.|
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) web site is at http://WWW.USDOJ.GOV, and the press release concerning John Demjanjuk which is reproduced below can be found at http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/1999/May/195crm.htm.
Is the OSI plagued with personnel-quality problems?
The chief impression that the press release below will create in the minds of readers knowledgeable about the Demjanjuk case and about the WW II events that it mentions is that the OSI statements tend to be either unsubstantiated or distorted or incomplete or untrue. This observation leads to the speculation that the Office of Special Investigations continues to be plagued with the same personnel-quality problems that led throughout its existence to a low quality of work, and to such spectacular debacles as the original prosecution of John Demjanjuk, as illustrated in the lapses of competence and of integrity that distinguished the work of Neal Sher, head of the OSI throughout the Demjanjuk trial in Israel. Within the Department of Justice, lawyers of higher integrity and competence will gravitate away from Nazi war crimes cases because these too often depend on Soviet-generated evidence, or because these too often concern the prosecution of septuagenarians and octogenarians for immigration infractions committed more than half a century ago, or because it is evident that egregious contemporary war crimes are given protection from prosecution. For reasons such as these, the lawyers who do end up working for the OSI (or for the Canadian war crimes unit for that matter) tend to be the losers of their profession, and their press releases, such as the one below, testify to their intellectual and ethical deficits.
Is wearing a uniform a war crime?
Notice that whereas in the 1980's the OSI had charged John Demjanjuk with real war crimes, with nothing less than having been Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, today he is charged with no war crimes at all, but only with having worn a German uniform at specified locations. However, please consider that many Germans committed war crimes during WW II, but nobody advocates that every German soldier who lives in the United States today should have his American citizenship revoked. Many Japanese committed war crimes during WW II, but nobody advocates that everyone who served in Japanese uniform in WW II and living in the United States today should have his American citizenship revoked. Many Americans committed war crimes in Vietnam, but nobody advocates that every American who served in Vietnam should be prosecuted today. And yet if you are a Ukrainian, or other east European, and your country was overrun and occupied during WW II, and you were conscripted into some German armed force, and were handed a uniform and a rifle and put to guarding a factory or a bridge or a camp, then Jewish groups do today brand you a war criminal who does deserve prosecution. This new thinking holds that when crimes were committed in an area by some members of a group, all members of that group who were in that area are guilty — in other words, it advocates replacing the principle of individual guilt with the principle of collective guilt. This is nothing less than a Jewish perversion of American justice.
The OSI beats an ignominious retreat.
Notice more particularly that whereas the OSI had originally charged John Demjanjuk with having been Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, today it does not even list Treblinka as one of the places that John Demjanjuk was at. This constitutes a tacit admission on the part of the OSI that the group of witnesses who swore having known Demjanjuk at Treblinka lied, that the OSI's original prosecution of John Demjanjuk was unwarranted, that his denaturalization and deportation were gratuitous, that his conviction and sentencing to death in Israel were without foundation, that when he listened from within his Israeli prison cell to the hammering of his gibbet being constructed, he suffered needlessly. For years John Demjanjuk was defamed as having been Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, and when the defamation turned out to be not just groundless, but actually manufactured, actually fabricated, where was justice then? The unprincipled politicians, the crooked prosecutors, the corrupt judges, the incompetent researchers, the cowardly civil servants — none of them went to prison. None of them were disbarred or fired or removed from office. None paid any fine. None admitted any guilt. None extended any apology. None offered any compensation. Rather, they all seemed enveloped by a magical protection, an impenetrable impunity. Everything that they did, however wrong, they seemed to do by right. To some, this gave the appearance of an inherent right of Jews to torment Ukrainians. The impression left by the Demjanjuk debacle was that the mistake of sentencing a man to death for crimes committed at a location that he cannot be proven to have ever visited is a mistake that falls within the bounds of what is permitted Jews when they persecute Ukrainians.
Can we believe stories of the death camps?
Originally, John Demjanjuk had been accused of being Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka. Foremost among the current charges is that he served at Sobibor. However, Treblinka and Sobibor share one quite startling characteristic, at least if one is to believe the testimony of Yitzhak Arad at the trial of John Demjanjuk in Jerusalem in 1987. That characteristic is, according to Arad, that not a shred of physical evidence remains of the existence of either camp. Specifically, not a single photograph remains of either camp, not a single body or fragment of a body, not a single burial pit, not a single building or foundation of a building, no roads, no sewers or sewage pits, no garbage dumps, no maps, no architectural plans, no paper documents, no spent cartridges, no gas chambers — nothing at all that one can see or touch. In other words, not a shred of forensic evidence — only the testimony of a handful of survivors. In view of this stunning revelation that Yitzhak Arad has given us, it might seem to some that the number of victims credited to the various camps in the OSI press release below — particularly the "more then 200,000" credited to Sobibor, as it is one of Yitzhak Arad's zero-forensic-evidence camps — are highly conjectural at best, and possibly fictional at worst. At the very least, as these numbers are capable of being doubted, they should not be repeated by OSI prosecutors as if they were hard facts.
Does the OSI find the American press largely at its service?
An OSI press release like the one below is likely to be repeated by the press which has limited means for maintaining staff knowledgeable about the Demjanjuk case and who would be able to comment on the accuracy of the press release. Any contrasting press release from the Demjanjuk defense will not be repeated by the press in the same detail or with the same frequency. Also, the OSI press releases will be more numerous than the defense press releases. For these reasons, the OSI has it within its power to win its cases in the court of public opinion even while losing them in the court of law. And of course it is possible that winning in the court of public opinion gives the OSI a leg up on winning in a court of law. Thus, the American justice system is flawed in that the press plays its role with insufficient independence and competence.
Is justice served when victims, or those who perceive themselves to be victims, act as investigators and prosecutors and judges?
It would seem to be an elementary and fundamental principle of justice that those who are victims, or who perceive themselves to be victims, be excluded from investigating or prosecuting or judging the accused. All such roles are more properly played by individuals who are not members of the victimized group, more especially when that victimized group frankly advocates vengeance, and when it has demonstrated a lack of principle in working to inflict that vengeance.
When the real or perceived victims are Jews and the accused are Ukrainians, the violation of this principle is particularly egregious, as it has been abundantly demonstrated on the Ukrainian Archive that a large volume of hatred and calumny is directed by Jews against Ukrainians, and a large measure of injustice is doled out by Jews against Ukrainians. When Jews prosecute Ukrainians, justice has often not been done, such that today, Jews prosecuting Ukrainians is understandably suspected of being Jews persecuting Ukrainians. Any Jew who understands and respects the law, therefore, should withdraw from such actions and leave them instead in the hands of disinterested parties. The heavy participation of Jews in such actions not only violates fundamental principles of justice, but also demonstrates a contempt for the principle that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done. The entire business of prosecuting Nazi war criminals would receive a much-needed boost in perceived legitimacy if — for starters — Eli M. Rosenbaum, Director of the OSI, admitted to a potential inability to be impartial, and to an inescapable inability to appear impartial, and resigned.
We have a choice of viewing the continued persecution of John Demjanjuk as arbitrary, as unprecedented, as unaccountable, as bizarre, as baffling; or of recognizing that concrete gains accrue to his persecutors, and thus viewing Demjanjuk's persecution as rational and — to his persecutors — productive. As this amounts to a choice between in the first case refusing to think, and in the second case struggling to understand, it need not be a choice that gives us long pause.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Justice today asked a federal court in
Cleveland to revoke the U.S. citizenship of John Demjanjuk.
In its complaint, filed today in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, the government alleged
that Demjanjuk, 79, a retired auto-worker, was a guard at the Sobibor extermination camp and at
the Majdanek and Flossenbürg concentration camps. It also alleged that the Cleveland area
resident was a member of the SS-run "Trawniki" unit that participated in the Nazi campaign to
annihilate the Jews of Europe.
In 1981, the federal court found Demjanjuk to be "Ivan the Terrible," a gas chamber
operator at the Treblinka extermination camp. He was extradited to Israel in 1986, convicted of
crimes against humanity by an Israeli trial court, and sentenced to death. But after the Israeli
Supreme Court found that reasonable doubt existed as to whether Demjanjuk was "Ivan the
Terrible," he was released.
Last year, the U.S. District Court in Cleveland vacated the original denaturalization order,
but authorized the government to reinstitute denaturalization proceedings.
Today's complaint was filed by the Office of Special Investigations ("OSI"), the
Appellate Section of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, and the U.S. Attorney's Office
Eli M. Rosenbaum, Director of OSI, said that the complaint alleged that Demjanjuk was
an armed guard at the Sobibor death camp, established by the Nazis for the sole purpose of
murdering Jewish civilians. The complaint stated that when Jewish prisoners arrived by train,
guards presided over their disembarkation, ordered them to strip naked, and herded them into gas
chambers. Exhaust from a diesel engine was then pumped into the chambers. More then
200,000 men, women, and children were murdered at Sobibor.
The complaint also alleged that Demjanjuk began working for the Nazis in 1942, at the
Trawniki Training Camp, an SS-run training and base camp in Nazi-occupied Poland that
prepared eastern European recruits to assist German personnel in implementing the Third Reich's
genocidal race policies.
It asserted that Demjanjuk and other Trawniki men participated in "Operation Reinhard,"
the Nazi program to exterminate Jews in occupied Poland. During Operation Reinhard, some 1.7
million Jews were rounded up and murdered by mass shootings or in specially constructed death
camps by poison gas. Tens of thousands of other Jews were confined to forced-labor camps and
exploited as slave laborers until they either succumbed to starvation, exhaustion, or disease, or
were murdered outright.
The complaint further stated that Demjanjuk was also an armed guard at the Majdanek
concentration camp in Lublin in Nazi-occupied Poland, which functioned both as a death camp,
where tens of thousands of Jews were murdered in gas chambers, and as a concentration camp,
where civilians were incarcerated as slave laborers under inhumane conditions. In addition to the
Jews who were immediately gassed upon arrival there, Majdanek prisoners no longer able to
work were gassed, shot, or hanged on a regular basis, while others were killed at the camp by
lethal injections, mistreatment, starvation, and disease. The number of persons who perished at
Majdanek during its existence has been estimated at between 200,000 and 360,000.
In addition, the complaint alleged that Demjanjuk served as an SS guard at the
Flossenbürg concentration camp, where thousands of prisoners were incarcerated under
inhumane conditions as slave laborers. Approximately 30,000 prisoners died at Flossenbürg
during the war.
After the war, according to the complaint, Demjanjuk willfully misrepresented his
wartime activities to United States immigration officials to obtain a visa, claiming that he spent
the war working on a farm in Sobibor, Poland, and as a laborer in Germany. Demjanjuk entered
the United States in 1952, and became a citizen in 1958.
Emily M. Sweeney, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said that the
complaint alleged that Demjanjuk served in Nazi death and concentration camps, concealed these
facts when he applied to become a United States citizen, and should be denaturalized.
Throughout the proceedings against him, Demjanjuk has denied serving as a guard in any
concentration or death camp. However, the Israeli Supreme Court expressly found Demjanjuk's
alibi "unreasonable," and the Israeli trial court flatly concluded, "It is a lie." Federal District
Court Judge Thomas A. Wiseman, Jr., of Nashville, appointed by the U.S. Court of Appeals in
Cincinnati to review the government's conduct in the prior case, offered a similar assessment,
stating that "Mr. Demjanjuk's alibi was so incredible as to legitimately raise the suspicions of his
prosecutors that he lied about everything."
In 1981, a federal court in Cleveland revoked Demjanjuk's citizenship after finding that
he was "Ivan the Terrible" and a guard at Trawniki. In light of these findings, the court deemed
it unnecessary to rule on the government's contention that Demjanjuk also served at Sobibor.
Although Demjanjuk was ordered deported, he was extradited to Israel in 1986, where he was
tried and convicted of being "Ivan the Terrible" by an Israeli trial court and sentenced to death.
In 1993, the Israeli Supreme Court reversed the conviction after prosecutors discovered evidence
from the Soviet Union suggesting that another man could have been Ivan the Terrible. While the
Israeli Supreme Court concluded that Demjanjuk had been a guard at both Sobibor and Trawniki,
as well as at the Majdanek and Flossenburg concentration camps, it nonetheless released him, on
the basis that he had been extradited to stand trial on the "Ivan the Terrible" charges. He
subsequently returned to the United States.
In 1992, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which had previously affirmed the 1985
extradition decision, reopened the case against Demjanjuk, and appointed Judge Wiseman
Special Master to inquire into allegations that federal prosecutors had improperly withheld
exculpatory evidence from Demjanjuk. The following year, Judge Wiseman determined that
although prosecutors had acted in good faith and had not acted "willfully" or "recklessly," they
had failed to disclose certain documents to Demjanjuk during the denaturalization and extradition
processes. He also concluded, however, that no evidence undermined the initial finding that
Demjanjuk had been a guard at Trawniki, and he therefore pronounced the 1981 denaturalization
order "sound." On review, the U.S. Court of Appeals found that the government's nondisclosures
In February 1998, a federal trial court vacated the original denaturalization order against
Demjanjuk but specifically permitted the government to file a new complaint if it believed that
the evidence against Demjanjuk so warranted. Today, the government did so.
Since OSI began operations in 1979, 61 Nazi persecutors have been stripped of U.S. citizenship, and 49 such individuals have been removed from the United States. Additionally, more than 150 Nazi persecutors who sought to enter the United States in recent years have been blocked from doing so as a result of OSI's "watchlist" program. More than 250 persons are currently under investigation by the Department of Justice unit.
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