Kyiv Post | 19May2011 | Askold S. Lozynskyj

Demjanjuk: Dreyfus in reverse

Holocaust survivors are living longer than expected.

Reparations being paid by Germany have proven inadequate to compensate. Israel requested more money. Germany sought alternative sources.

A theory was advanced that Nazi Germany could not have accomplished “the final solution” without the assistance of non-Germans.

The John J. Demjanjuk case, although deeply flawed, was the most prominent unresolved case involving the Holocaust. The United States, having taken away Demjanjuk’s U.S. citizenship for a second time, hastened to find him deportable.

Germany agreed to the charade, but did not request extradition as that would have necessitated a thorough investigation as to what Germany was planning to do and upon what grounds. Germany issued a warrant despite an incomplete investigative file and the United States simply deported Demjanjuk to Germany.

Finally, in essentially a show trial, the German judicial system relinquished any pretense at propriety and independence. It simply carried out the German government’s political agenda.

Demjanjuk never had a chance in Germany. He was accused of almost 28,000 counts of accessory to murder. True he wasn’t directly responsible for any death.

There wasn’t even an allegation of personal involvement of abuse. His alleged crime was being at Sobibor, a killing camp. Except that no witness from Sobibor could identify him. So an old piece of compromised Soviet evidence was dredged up.

Even the FBI acknowledged that it was likelya forgery. Nonetheless, the show had to go on and the court had to convict. Otherwise, the entire political exercise would have been exposed as a sham. And so the German court convicted, then sentenced a 91-year-old Ukrainian American, former Red Army prisoner of war, on almost 28,000 counts ofaccessory to murder.

In the 1890s and early 1900s another country, France conducted a similar quasi-judicial sham exercise of its own concoction. The case involved the conviction for treason, ironically on behalf of Germany, of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a French artillery officer of Jewish descent.

The evidence against him was egregiously inadequate. But French societal anti-Semitism insisted upon conviction. Two years later new evidence appeared which clearly exposed another perpetrator. The latter was brought to trial, but France could not let go of anti-Semitism, so the real perpetrator was acquitted. The conviction of the Jew was affirmed despite the obvious. Finally, Dreyfus was exonerated, but only 12 years after his initial conviction and after French society’s thirst for Jewish blood had subsided.

The Demjanjuk case is Dreyfus in reverse. Dreyfus was a glaring example of injustice resulting from extreme societal anti-Semitism so severe that it affected the entire country, its political and judicial systems and even the media.

Demjanjuk is an equally glaring example of injustice, resulting from just the opposite - extreme societal pressure not to appear anti-Semitic by failing to somehow honor the victims of the Holocaust through the punishment of their tormentors whether they actually did anything or not.

There is another problem, aside from the perversion of justice and the obvious inhumanity. This problem is more subtle than the irony of the perpetrator standing in judgment over his own victim.

Even assuming facts not in evidence, to wit, that Demjanjuk was ever at Sobibor, by every account he was a prisoner of war in German servitude under penalty of death. He could neither disobey nor flee. Now that Germany holds out the illusion that it has conducted a proper judicial proceeding, Germany has the duty to pursue every cog in its Nazi apparatus, willing and unwilling, every guard and every soldier. But Germany has enacted legislation precluding prosecution of any such German cog.

The case of Demjanjuk is now an international conundrum. Germany most certainly should have its already bloody hands full prosecuting or explaining selective prosecution. The United States is equally at fault for pandering to a fringe bloodthirsty Jewish constituency in the instant case, should be busy in its continuing role as Germany’s co-counsel.

Russia is affected, since often as in the Demjanjuk case, its Soviet labs offered primary sources of fabricated evidence which served as the basis for convictions.

Despite the apparent demise of the Soviet Union, Russia’s archives remain. But then Russia is immune to criticism since it neither abides by nor respects the rules of a civilized society. Israel appears quite respectable, having accused, investigated, tried and then dismissed all charges against Demjanjuk including any Sobibor role.

The only blemish is that it held Demjanjuk on death row for five years. Perhaps that pales with his entire more than thirty year ordeal proclaiming his innocence. Seeking additional reparations for its citizens cannot be considered improper. In fact, it was obligatory upon Israel.

On the other hand there is that part of the global Jewish community which could not accept Demjanjuk’s innocence, the findings of the Israeli courts or the rule of law. Many concerned Jews disagreed, yet remained silent. But then, that’s precisely why anti-Semitism exists to this day. Today it’s being fed by extremist Jews themselves and the silence and acquiescence of others.

Askold S. Lozynskyj is a New York City lawyer and former president of the Ukrainian World Congress