Kyiv Post | 01Feb2011 | Marco Levytsky

John Demjanjuk -- the universal scapegoat

The John Demjanjuk saga has taken on absurd Kafkaesque dimensions.

A survivor of Soviet Russia’s genocidal Holodomor, conscripted into the Soviet Red Army then captured by Nazi Germany and subjected to appalling conditions of starvation in a Prisoner of War Camp, Demjanjuk was, some 30 years later, falsely accused of being the notorious prison guard “Ivan the Terrible” by the U.S. witch-hunting Office of Special Investigations, which fraudulently withheld evidence that would clear him from his defence attorneys.

He was stripped of his U.S. citizenship in 1981 and 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 by the Israeli Supreme Court.

The 90-year-old former Ohio autoworker is already being tried in Germany -- the country that gave the world Adolph Hitler and the Holocaust -- on 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder while serving as a guard at the Nazis' Sobibor death camp.

Now Spain -- another former fascist state -- has jumped into the fray and wants to try Demjanjuk on charges of being an accessory to genocide and crimes against humanity. Spanish Judge Ismael Moreno has accused Demjanjuk of working at the Nazi concentration camp in Flossenbuerg in Bavaria in southern Germany, where Moreno says 155 Spaniards were held, 60 of whom died.

Germany, which democratically elected Hitler in 1933, and is thus responsible for the Holocaust, has been loath to prosecute its own native-born war criminals in the past. Now it’s too late because Germany recently passed a statute of limitations law on the prosecution of its own war criminals. Neither will that country allow its citizens to be extradited to any other country to face war crimes charges.

Quite ironically, the Ukrainophobic Simon Wiesenthal Center in its most recent report, which covers the period from April 2009 to March 2010, gave top marks to Germany -- the first time any country besides the U.S. has been given an "A'' grade for prosecuting suspected Nazi war criminals. All because it has found itself an innocent “subhuman” Ukrainian scapegoat to crucify, while letting its own real war criminals go free.

Incidentally, the director of the Wiesenthal Center's Israel office, Efraim Zuroff, called Canada's efforts "a terrible failure" for “not extraditing former Nazis even after stripping them of citizenship” according to an Associated Press report. Obviously Zuroff has no idea what the word “extradite” means since none of the people in question were ever charged -- let alone -- convicted of any crimes, nor were any of them Nazis.

Extradition means to deport someone who is charged with crimes in another country to face justice. Whenever war criminals were actually charged in another country, as was the case with Jacob Luitjens, Canada did extradite them. Not so with Germany. Another country that won’t extradite its own citizens to face war crimes charges is Israel. Take the case of Salomon Morel, the 1945 commandant of the infamous Communist Zgoda camp in Swietochlowice, Poland.

It is estimated that close to 2,000 inmates died there and that torture and abuse of prisoners were chronic. He was indicted by Poland in1998, but Israel refused to extradite him.

Spain, for its part, has granted an amnesty to all the fascist war criminals who committed countless crimes against humanity during the 1936-1939 Civil War and the 1939-1976 dictatorship of Francisco Franco. One judge, Baltasar Garzón, who in 2008 launched an investigation into these crimes against humanity found himself suspended from his duties, while the Supreme Court tries him on charges of distorting the law by opening the investigation into crimes against humanity carried out by the Franco regime in the first place.

So here we have it. Countries like Germany and Spain cover up their own Nazi and Fascist crimes against humanity while ganging up on an innocent 90-year-old victim of such crimes and a convenient universal scapegoat. It’s high times these hypocritical states -- who claim to be civilized western democracies -- came to grips with their own criminal pasts and atoned for their sins instead of persecuting innocent scapegoats.

Marco Levytsky is the editor and publisher of Ukrainian News, an independent bi-weekly newspaper based in Edmonton and distributed across Canada.