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New Jersey Herald | 19Jan2012 | Associated Press

Demjanjuk seeks funds to sue German paper

BERLIN (AP) -- John Demjanjuk, who was convicted last year of serving as a Nazi death camp guard, is asking for German state financial help to sue the country's biggest-selling newspaper for alleged defamation, a court said Thursday.

Duesseldorf state court spokesman Ulrich Egger told The Associated Press that Demjanjuk is complaining Bild newspaper's website labeled him a "war criminal" and a "Nazi henchman" before he was convicted last May of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder.

A lower court granted Demjanjuk financial help to sue, but for a maximum of €5,000 ($6,400) in damages, ruling more could not reasonably be expected.

The 91-year-old is now appealing that decision, saying that he needs funding to sue for €25,000. Egger says it is unclear when a ruling will be issued.

Bild maintains that its reporting didn't go beyond the permitted limits, according to the court.

Demjanjuk's family says the retired Ohio autoworker has no financial resources. He cannot leave Germany because he has no passport after being stripped of his U.S. citizenship ahead of his deportation in 2009.

At his trial in Munich, judges found that evidence showed Demjanjuk was a guard during the war at the Nazis' Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland. They sentenced him to five years in prison.

Demjanjuk was released pending an appeal. It isn't clear when a federal court might rule on that.

The case was the first time someone was convicted in Germany on the basis only of having been a guard, without evidence of a specific killing.

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk was a Soviet Red Army soldier captured by the Germans in Crimea in 1942.

The Munich court found that he had agreed to serve the Nazis as a guard at Sobibor. Demjanjuk has consistently rejected the allegation, insisting he never served as a guard anywhere and was held in German camps himself for much of World War II.