Yevhen Sverstiuk   Ukrainian Weekly,   08-Aug-1993:  Appeal by Former Prisoners of Conscience

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Former prisoners of conscience appeal to Israel for Demjanjuk

Following is the full text of an appeal on behalf of John Demjanjuk sent to the Supreme Court of Israel by former prisoners of conscience of the USSR.  The text was only recently received in the west and disseminated in translation by the Ukrainian National Center: History and Information Network (UNCHAIN)

To the Supreme Court of Israel from prisoners of conscience.  Guided by our moral duty we are appealing to the Honorable Court.

Out of all the catastrophes, misfortunes and degradations of all that is holy, the 20th century has borne out a primary truth, the truth which sprang forth from our suffering: the truth about the preciousness of human life.  The 1,000-year-old faith in the God of our forefathers has taught us that before God, every human being is a unique treasure.

The Bolshevik trials, based on class origin, and the Fascist trials, based on race, taught us that we, prisoners of conscience, as well as the prisoners of Zion in the Gulag camps, have to defend our very selves.  It is worthy of mention that, in spite of the indiscriminate Communist legal system, none of us were brought to trial for someone else's trespasses.  Our thoughts and our desires to return to our historical fatherland were labeled a crime; nevertheless, this "crime" was our very own.  It is a profound degradation for a person to have another person's trespasses ascribed to him.  Likewise, it is also a profound degradation to have an individual's trespasses ascribed to a nation.

A case in point is the trial of John Demjanjuk.  In the camps we used to say that such individuals "served for war."  It meant that only God alone knew whether the guilty were the servants of the conqueror or the conquered forever and ever.

As far as we can ascertain, John Demjanjuk was tried for the misdeeds of another person.  Like a shadow, the spectre of judicial error has always been present in the court.  But no one had expected such a windfall as the collapse of the Communist system which originally inspired this case.  When new evidence was presented indicating that Demjanjuk was not "Grozny" ["the Terrible"] these arguments were thrown on the scales of justice and God Himself called upon the Israeli Themis to be tested by the sacred Principle of Justice.

As the case develops further, you will have to admit the error and set free this human being regardless of the present political configuration.  Whether the ultimate outcome of the Demjanjuk story will generate feelings of outrage and insult among the Ukrainians should not influence its outcome.

Of much greater importance is the presevation of the Principle, so that it may retain the power to safeguard us.

We, the longtime prisoners of a repressive regime have strong feelings for every injustice or prejudice, and for proximity of the courts of justice; we feel it by our scars and callouses which will be ours forever.  And it is well that they will remain forever, that the pain will be constantly with us.  It enables us also to fully understand the pain of this kind of punishment, the pain that the condemned have while spending years on death row.

Therefore, we believe that, superseding all political rationales, all the stereotypes that cripple the human consciousness, superseding all the conveniences and inconveniences, the Israeli Court has a duty to raise itself to the level of the Principle so it will be able to stand before God the God that gave the world the Ten Commandments.

There are greater things than ourselves and only this is important.  Forgive us for reminding you about that which you have known all along.

Yevhen Sverstiuk, Mykola Horbal, Levko Horokhivsky, Mykhailo Horyn, Myroslav Marynovych, Vasyl Ovsienko, Zynoviy Antoniuk, Yevhen Proniuk, Oles Shevchenko.

(Translated by UNCHAIN from the Russian-language edition of Holos Ukrainy, April 1993.)