Allen A. Ryan, Jr.
Letter to Aleksandr Rekunkov
Ryan requests Trawniki ID from Rekunkov
"I fear that an acquittal of Demjanjuk could arouse public sentiment in the United States to discontinue the trials against fascist criminals there and could jeopardize the deportation to the Soviet Union of those criminals who have been found guilty and whose appeals are nearing a conclusion." — Allan A. Ryan, Jr.
A comprehensive discussion of the Trawniki Identification Card can be found in the Lubomyr Prytulak letter to Alan Dershowitz of 14-May-2001.
ALLAN A. RYAN, JR.
1350 MASSACHUSETTS AVENUE CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS 02138
May 30, 1986
The Honorable Aleksandr Rekunkov
Procurator General of the U.S.S.R.
Dear Mr. Rekunkov:
You will recall that in February of 1980 I met with you and with then-Procurator General of the U.S.S.R. Rudenko to request, on behalf of the United States Government, the assistance of the Soviet Union in the search for Hitlerite criminals living in the United States. Through your help, the Soviet Union provided great assistance and as a result the Office of Special Investigations of the Justice Department was able to proceed successfully against a number of former Soviet citizens who had managed to escape to the United States after the war.
I left the Department of Justice in 1983 and I wrote a book entitled Quiet Neighbors: Prosecuting Nazi War Criminals in America, of which perhaps you have been informed. I described the unselfish cooperation of the Soviet side and you personally in our efforts. It has always been a source of great satisfaction to me that, whatever differences may have existed between our governments during those years, the Department of Justice and the Procuracy worked closely and on friendly terms against the criminals of fascism.
One of our most important cases was that against Ivan (John) Demjanjuk, born in the Ukrainian S.S.R., the man who operated the gas chamber at the death camp Treblinka. A crucial piece of evidence in that case was the identification card from the training camp Trawniki, which was held in Soviet archives. Although the Soviet Union had provided an official copy of that card to us prior to the trial, we requested that the original document be made available temporarily in order to refute the false claim of Demjanjuk that he was innocent and that the identification card was a forgery.
Due to the cooperation of the Soviet authorities, the original card was forwarded to the Embassy of the Soviet Union in Washington, where it was examined by the prosecution and defense lawyers. Mr. Vadim Kuznetsov of the Embassy brought the document to the trial in Cleveland, where it was examined by the judge. As a result of this evidence, the judge ruled that Demjanjuk was a fascist criminal and he ordered that Demjanjuk's naturalized citizenship be revoked. That verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. I have no doubt that the original identification card from the Archives of the U.S.S.R. was the most important document against Demjanjuk and that the judge's inspection of it led directly to the successful verdict.
In 1986, after further proceedings, Demjanjuk was extradited pursuant to the formal request of Israel and he is now imprisoned and awaiting trial. As we are both prosecutors, I am sure you will recognize that the case against Demjanjuk would be strengthened if the original Soviet document could be made available to the judge in that case. I personally and respectfully request that you exercise your authority to make available to the Israeli court the original Trawniki identification card that was made available to the courts of the U.S.
I make this request in the spirit invoked by General Rudenko in our 1980 discussions, when he vouched that those who fought against fascism are allies still in that fight. While Demjanjuk was not victorious in the United States case, he now has a second chance in Israel. If he should succeed there, it will be a defeat for anti-fascist allies everywhere.
I fear that an acquittal of Demjanjuk could arouse public sentiment in the United States to discontinue the trials against fascist criminals there and could jeopardize the deportation to the Soviet Union of those criminals who have been found guilty and whose appeals are nearing a conclusion. You are perhaps aware that the Ukrainian criminal Fedorenko has already been deported to the Soviet Union. Also, the Estonian Linnas has been ordered deported to the Soviet Union and has nearly exhausted his appeals.
If, on the other hand, Demjanjuk is convicted and sentenced for his crimes, it will be a sign to all the world that Hitlerite crimes cannot be forgotten and that the fight against fascism cannot be allowed to subside. In my opinion, such a verdict would strengthen the support of the American people for the prosecutions and deportations that are being conducted here.
I trust you will agree when I suggest to you that any victory for Hitlerite criminals, anywhere in the world, is a defeat for those who oppose fascism. Demjanjuk is only one man, but he has come to symbolize the efforts of anti-fascist peoples to bring Hitlerite criminals to justice. Those efforts continue today between the United States and the Soviet Union in the spirit that you and General Rudenko expressed so eloquently to me in 1980, but we are not the only ones who have attempted to do justice. I respectfully appeal to you to extend the same hand of cooperation to our colleagues anywhere in the world who share our concerns. Today, the greatest need for that cooperation is in the trial of Demjanjuk.
I thank you for your consideration of my request, and I extend to you my sincere and personal wishes of friendship and collegiality.
Yours very truly,