He said the prosecution marked a new departure in war crimes trials compared to those in the past, because there is no evidence about Demjanjuk's own acts, only the evidence that he served as a guard at Sobibor death camp in Poland.
"The structure of the indictment is quite revolutionary compared to all the other major Nazi war crimes cases," said Nestler, who is a criminal-law professor in Cologne. In the past, atrocities by the individual were the focus.
"In this case, the subject will be the machinery of extermination within which Demjanjuk had a function," he told the German Press Agency dpa.
Nestler said the court had granted standing to at least 35 people with complaints against Demjanjuk, allowing them to appoint lawyers to support the state prosecutor. Nestler and associates represent 30.
He said four of the complainants were former Sobibor inmates themselves.
The relatives to attend the trial would mainly be residents of the Netherlands, plus others from Israel and the United States, he said.
Nestler said nine former inmates of Sobibor were believed to be still alive. Eight of them escaped from the camp in an uprising in October 1943 which led to the camp's closure by the Nazis.
All had lost relations in the gas chambers at the camp, which had the sole purpose of killing detained Jewish people. The guards pushed people direct from arriving trains into the chambers. Demjanjuk was allegedly present while 27,900 were killed this way.
The complainants were seeking "justice and truth" rather than harsh punishment, Nestler added. "Any person in some way responsible for the murder of their relatives must accept responsibility before he dies."
Demjanjuk confirms he was taken prisoner by the Germans. The prosecution alleges he agreed to be trained by the Germans as a guard at an SS base, Travniki. The Nazis used about 100 Travniki graduates to guard Jews at Sobibor, which killed an estimated 250,000 people.
Nestler said it was understandable that Demjanjuk had joined the Travniki group to save his own life, "but remaining at Sobibor was not justified by the need to save himself.
"Everyone else in Europe was exposed to the dangers of the war, whereas life for the Travniki guards at Sobibor was comparatively comfortable," the lawyer said.
wonders if any groups associated with the Demjanjuk defense and being
defamed by the process will ask for and receive standing? Ukrainian
World Congress? Ukrainian Canadian Congress? Ukrainian Congress
Committee of America? What about countries: Ukraine, Poland, Hungary,
Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, etc.? ]