Earth Times | 21Apr2010 | dpa,judge-who-jailed-sobibor-sub-commander-says-guards-were-powerless.html

Judge who jailed Sobibor sub-commander says guards were powerless

Munich - A German judge who sentenced a Nazi sub-commander of Sobibor death camp to life in jail told the court at the trial of John Demjanjuk in Munich on Wednesday that non-German guards had been powerless at the camp.

Prosecutors accuse former Red Army soldier Demjanjuk, 90, of being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews in the Sobibor gas chambers during 1943. The key evidence is a personnel card that allegedly shows the Nazis trained him at Trawniki and deployed him to Sobibor.

Hans-Robert Richthof, who re-tried sub-commandant Karl Frenzel in the 1980s [date?], said that trial only touched glancingly on the auxiliary guards. But Frenzel did mention during his trial testimony that there had been a guard named Demjanjuk in a perimeter-security team, he said.

The retired judge specialized in trying Nazi war criminals.

Richthof said the Trawniki-trained guards had no authority to give orders and were mostly employed to guard the outer confines of the wooded site in occupied Poland where the Jews were killed, and would not have played a key role in the "extermination."

The foreign guards were assigned to protecting the camp itself, though they were occasionally ordered to perform executions.

Frenzel was re-tried in Hagen, Germany, re-convicted [date?] and given life imprisonment after a 1966 conviction failed on a technicality.

Outside the courtroom, retired judge Richthof told a reporter he did not consider the mere presence of an accused person at the scene of a crime was enough to justify a conviction as an accessory.

"I don't know of any crime where simply being present amounts to guilt," he said.

Demjanjuk, who was deported from his US home last year, has denied the charges, but declined to testify. In a statement through his lawyers last week, he said the Germans were to blame for actions they forced their prisoners to perform.

Copyright DPA