Kyiv Post |04Feb2010 | Associated Press
Investigator skeptical of new Demjanjuk claim
MUNICH (AP) — A top German investigator said Thursday he is skeptical
about a new claim by a Sobibor survivor who says he remembers John
Demjanjuk as a guard at the Nazi death camp.
Thomas Walther, who led the investigation that prompted Germany to
prosecute Demjanjuk, said if survivor Alexej Weizen did remember
Demjanjuk, it almost certainly would have come up before in the roughly
30 years the retired U.S. autoworker has faced investigations of his
Weizen had given statements previously to Soviet investigators and
Demjanjuk had a high-profile trial in Israel in the 1980s.
"When now there is a trial and he suddenly says 'I know him' I'm very
skeptical," Walther told The Associated Press. "Why did he not remember
him when there was the trial in Israel, or when it was all over the
press in the U.S.?"
Demjanjuk is being tried on accusations he was an accessory to the
murders of 27,900 people while allegedly serving as a guard at Sobibor.
The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk rejects the charges, saying he was never a
guard at any Nazi camp.
Walther spoke on the sidelines of the trial, which was canceled for a
second day in a row after doctors reported that Demjanjuk, 89, was
still experiencing health problems.
Walther, who has now retired from the special German prosecutors'
office responsible for investigating Nazi-era crimes, had been
scheduled to testify about the decision to pursue charges against
Weizen's claim to recognize Demjanjuk came in an interview broadcast
Wednesday with Czech public radio from the Russian city of Ryazan. The
87-year-old, who was a Jewish Soviet soldier held at Sobibor from
1942-43, said he recognized Demjanjuk from an old picture published in
a Russian newspaper.
"I remember him. I remember them all," he said. "He was a guard. I saw
him to take a group of prisoners to the woods to work."
In Munich, trial prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz said he knew of Weizen
and said it was the first time he was known to have spoken about
Demjanjuk. He said it was "a matter for the court" whether Weizen
should be called as a witness.
There are no known Sobibor survivors who can identify Demjanjuk from
the camp. Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said Weizen's "11th hour
claim to know him now is simply not credible."
"If there is anything of interest in Russia, it is relevant KGB files
on the case that still remain locked and secret," the son said in an
e-mail to The Associated Press.
Demjanjuk suffers from several medical problems but has been declared
fit to face trial as long as court sessions are limited to two
90-minute sessions per day.
The trial was called off Wednesday after doctors reported that
Demjanjuk was suffering from dangerously low hemoglobin levels. On
Thursday they said he was still unable to appear, despite treatment.
Four sessions have now been canceled for health issues since Demjanjuk
went on trial Nov. 30, 2010. The trial is scheduled to resume next
Demjanjuk had his U.S. citizenship revoked in 1981 after the Justice
Department alleged he hid his past as the notorious Treblinka guard
"Ivan the Terrible." He was extradited to Israel, where he was found
guilty and sentenced to death in 1988, only to have the conviction
overturned five years later as a case of mistaken identity.
- Available at Kyiv Post.