Recently, there has been a rise in European media interest in the case of John Demjanjuk. Following in the footsteps of Stern magazine, the August 2 issue of of Der Spiegel, a German weekly newsmagazine, carried an article on the John Demjanjuk case addressing a central piece of the Israeli prosecution's evidence, the Trawniki training camp identification card. When introduced into evidence by the Israeli prosecution at Demjanjuk's Treblinka trial, it seemed to confirm two things: first, that Demjanjuk was trained to he a death camp guard, and secondly, that he was posted at the Sobibor death camp.
The Der Spiegel article, excerpts of which follow in translation, traces the origins of the Trawniki ID card and concludes it is an outright forgery.
Michael Hanusiak, publisher of a Soviet propaganda sheet in New York presented, in a 1976 issue of News From Ukraine, the deposition of one Ignat Danylchenko, who was sentenced in 1949 to 25 years in a prison camp by the Soviet government for his wartime collaboration with the Germans. In the deposition, Danylchenko said he worked with Demjanjuk in Sobibor until March 1944, and thereafter as SS auxiliaries at Flossenburg concentration camp.
However, the murder camp Sobibor was closed by the Nazis before the end of 1943. A (West) German federal archive has contained, for many years now, a document ordering the transfer of one 'Demjanjuk,' with the ID number 1393, to Flossenburg concentration camp for work as an SS-auxiliary. The witness Danylchenko is now dead.
Hanusiak pushed on. In 1977 he published a copy of an ID card, serial number 1393, made up for SS guard Iwan Demjanjuk, and noting his posting to Sobibor as of March 27, 1943.
... The ID card served as the OSI's key piece of evidence. Demjanjuk lost his U.S. citizenship and was deported to Israel in 1986. His attorneys discovered exculpatory evidence, discarded by the U.S. prosecutors, which included a later deposition of Danylchenko from 1979, and list with 43 Treblinka guards and 200 SS-auxiliaries. Demjanjuk's name did not appear in any of this material.
The lawyers argued that their client could not have served simultaneously in Sobibor and Treblinka, camps 200 kilometers apart from each other. As they presented this argument, the original of the ID card disappeared, and the American businessman and Communist sympathizer Armand Hammer sought the document from Moscow.
... It [the ID] was obviously falsified. The head of the Federal Crime Office in Wiesbaden, Louis-Ferdinand Werner, pointed out the following to the Israeli investigators: The date of issue was missing; the head was attached to the photograph, e.g. it was taken from another picture; and the SS insignia (runes) were hand-drawn, not printed, in an improper style.
The Israelis shied away from additional examination [of the card]; one said: "How could we explain this to the people back home?" Werner's conclusion: "The factual considerations were openly and consciously subordinated to the political aspects [of the case]."
... Bavarian writing analyst Dieter Lehner examined the Trawniki ID closely. He pointed out a false service seal had been used on the card, the improper usage of German words, and a letter "k" in the wrong style, which led to the manipulation of the signature.
Other indications: Grammatical markings were missing or were hand marked, rather than printed. The service number 1393 had been assigned even before Demjanjuk was captured by the Germans and the photograph was probably removed from Demjanjuk's 1947 Regensburg driver's license, added to the Trawniki card and then retouched.
To add to the doubts, the defendant's attorneys traveled to the former Soviet Union and found exculpatory material. In the statements of 37 ex-Treblinka guards imprisoned in the past by the USSR government, the last name of "Ivan the Terrible" was recalled as "Marchenko," and his identification number as 476.
— Translated by Yarema A. Bachynsky