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Kyiv Post | 11Apr2012 | Anthony Schlega

My tribute to John Demjanjuk

Editor's Note: The following blog can be found here.

When my friend John Demjanjuk fell asleep in the hands of the Lord, peacefully in his bed on March 17, 2012 in a Bad Feilnbach nursing home, Bavaria, Southern Germany, it brought to an end a 35-year witch hunt. The result is that he is unquestionably an innocent man.

It does not matter what the so-called experts say or write about John being convicted of atrocities. The fact is, in Israel they let him go free after acknowledging their error in his mistaken identity, and after his trial in Munich, the Germans not only took far too much time in handling his appeal, they also made it difficult for him to receive adequate and expeditious health care after releasing him from prison.

This is why I can only presume that the responsible Munich city civil servants hoped John Demjanjuk would pass away before his appeal could be processed, in fear of having to acquit him just like Israel did. If that were to happen, they would have to declare the case against him a farce for which they would have to pay compensation in addition to the five million euros court costs, plus his eighteen hundred euros a month nursing home fees. These last fees the city of Munich had still not paid to the full, when I spoke to the nursing home’s owner five days after John’s passing.

Like many spectators, over the years I had followed the John Demjanjuk trials, watched the TV reports and read the newspaper stories. I often compared his tragic life to the many other victims of World War II who I knew personally.

By “victims” I mean not only of the Holocaust, but also others, such as conscripted soldiers or family members. These people had in one way or another suffered not only from the loss of a husband, son or father but who themselves were caught between fronts and so-called partisan heroics or atrocities, depending on which side you were fighting on. I got to know not only the men of the diaspora, but also of ex-Wehrmacht, and even SS soldiers who are still alive and residing in Germany.

Let me give you some background information. I live close to Munich, in a nice, quiet mountainous area. In a nearby town there was what was known as the Junkers Schule. This was a school used to train SS officer cadets. This army post, or as it is known in German, Kaserne, was built by prisoners of the Third Reich taken from Dachau, approximately 75 kilometers away.

A sub-camp of Dachau was built for these prison workers, which is today a housing area built under the Marshal Plan. At the end of the war this sub-camp was used by the American liberators as a compound to hold their German prisoners when they took control of the SS Kaserne.

It was General Patton and his Third Division who conquered the areas of Southern Bavaria. The General took up his office right in the Kaserne located in the town of Bad Toelz. Later the street that ran through the American housing area was named after him, General-Patton-Strasse.

A lot of World War II history is located very close to where I live and in one way or another I became very much aware of the thoughts of some of the German war veterans. They were sorry they lost the war, and at the time were completely ignored by the German authorities.

When I first arrived to work at this historical Kaserne in 1981, as a young man, a civilian, it was the home of the US 10th Special Forces, and the Non-Commissioned Officers’ Academy. The Soviet threat was very evident at the time.

My job was as to work as a Heavy Mobile Equipment Operator for the Directorate of Engineers. My foreman was an elderly ex-Rumanian who had served in the German Army, and was an ex-prisoner. Later he was asked to work for the US army (just like John Demjanjuk was). He and two other operators, both ex-German WW II soldiers, were to train me. The chief of our department was an ex-SS soldier who was taken prisoner in France as a young man and sent to West Virginia via England. There were, of course, many other types of workers, neighbors and even family members who had all served at one time in Hitler’s Army. We even had an ex-U-boat mechanic in our team.

A decade later, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain, the Kaserne also fell silent and was closed. It was to be remodeled for civilian use and the traces of the Kaserne’s past history were to diminish along with the memory of the long Cold War and the Soviet Secret Police, the KGB.

I heard on the news that John Demjanjuk was being brought to Munich prison. I thought about this aged man, 89 they said, in poor health, all alone away from his family. I wondered why on earth the German authorities would go through all this trouble and expense for something the Israelis had already acquitted him of. Surely if anyone was capable of finding out anything about this man’s hidden past, then it had to be the Israelis. Unfortunately for John, although history had proved that the evidence initially provided by the KGB in his eight-year case was fraudulent, Germany had decided to ignore this fact.

As soon as I heard what the German charge against John was: “assistance to murder of 28,000 Jews in Sobibor, it made me wonder why all the other ex-Nazi soldiers who are still alive today are not being charged under the same count. As far as I am concerned, every single wartime soldier who wore the German uniform should be arrested under the same charge. These murders did not only happen in Sobibor alone, but in every occupied country the Nazis marched into.

In Munich, our Ukrainian Orthodox church parish is very small; it struggles to barely manage to survive, as most of its post-war elderly members have now passed on. This parish set about helping John all they could. The prison visits by our priest were very much welcomed, and when I heard that this was being accomplished, I at once volunteered my services as an English-speaking person to help keep John sane, if needed.

As John did not know me, it was decided by his lawyer that the fewer persons he talked to, the better off he was, as the press were only too eager to dig their claws into him and print any story, regardless how trivial.

Almost two years later, I had almost forgotten my promise, when my priest and friend asked me to visit John once or even twice a month in the nursing home in Bad Feilnbach where he was living. I gladly consented, and on my first trip we went together so he could introduce me to this infamous man.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and as we entered the building, no staff members of the nursing home were to be found. Although it was not a prison, I thought how easy it would be for anyone to walk in. When I mentioned this later to my priest friend he told me that he was also concerned, because on his last visit he was sitting in John’s room when a young man burst in carrying a rucksack with a video camera mounted on his shoulder and asked if this was John Demjanjuk’s room. The priest told him that he had the wrong room and asked him to leave. After this incident, the priest complained to the manager, who said there were supposed to be tighter visiting controls. There weren’t.

When I was introduced to him, I found John reserved and cautious towards me, a natural response after all he had been through. John and the priest spoke in Ukrainian, mostly about me I supposed, and I loved to listen to John’s Ukrainian because it reminded me so much of my own father’s speech.

The Ukrainian language has many varied dialects, but listening to John took me back to my childhood days when my father took me shopping and he would meet some of his Ukrainian friends. They would talk for hours, or so it seemed to me, way back then. Now, just over 40 years later, I sat in John’s room, waiting for them to stop talking.

After the first meeting, I started taking John to church with me on Sundays and during the one-hour drive we got to know each other. Later, when I had time during the week I would stop by and visit him for an afternoon, or take him shopping to the nearby supermarket and listen to stories of his youth and war experiences. I would take him on day trips and outings and even to my home where I would let him Skype with his wife and family.

We had grown not only to like each other, but also to trust each other. I asked him if I could write down his stories and perhaps record him when he was telling me his stories, which he agreed to.

I have now written down the stories, his thoughts and how this charismatic man lived his last months. I have named it Sipek, My Conversations with John Demjanjuk. It is his story. I am convinced this man was not the man his persecutors say he was.

The following article by Andriy J. Semotiuk, a Toronto lawyer, rebuts all the accusations against this man.

All the rules were broken to prosecute Demjanjuk.
This is a concise section of the full story. Taken from

The prosecution in Munich relied on three key pieces of evidence and a ‘novel’ legal proposition to obtain a conviction of being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 victims.

1. Trawniki Card

Was the Trawniki card real or was it a Soviet fabrication? All the defense had to do was raise a reasonable doubt about it. Three arguments stood out regarding the card:
i) Count Nikolai Tolstoy pointed out to Yoram Sheftel, the Israeli attorney who defended Demjanjuk in Israel, there was an entire Soviet KGB division known as Division 14 that dealt solely with the forgery of documents. Sheftel indicated that the components of such cards, including pre-signed Nazi signatures, which were seized by Russian troops at the end of the war and were therefore available to the Soviets to make up false papers.

ii) Some world experts expressed reservations about the authenticity of the card. Dr. Grant, who Sheftel claimed was the world’s foremost forensic expert and the man who revealed the forgeries of the “Mussolini diaries” and the “Hitler diaries”, testified in Israel that the Demjanjuk signature on the card differed from all the others in the way the Ds and Ms were formed and in the fact that in all other signatures the writing was continuous but on the card it was not. Further, Dr. Grant pointed out that there were two holes in the right side of the picture on the card whilst on the paper under the holes in the photograph there were no holes. Judging by the purple ink found inside the holes which was similar to ink used by the KGB and the nature of the spacing of the holes Dr. Grant concluded it was more logical to assume that the photograph was unstapled from some other Soviet document and attached to the card in the Soviet Union, than that it was originally attached in Trawniki in 1942. Israeli officials refused to allow Dr. Grant to detach the photo from the card to make a conclusive finding, but he nonetheless concluded his evidence by saying “The Trawniki document cannot be an authentic document belonging to the defendant Demjanjuk.” The same conclusion was reached by many researchers around the world who have cast doubt on the card, particularly when it was compared to similar cards from the time period.

iii) Michael Shaked, the prosecutor in the Israeli case, indicated that on January 23rd, 1987 the original Trawniki card was provided for examination to the German police force’s main criminal-identification laboratory in Weisbaden. The laboratory analysts indicated that even after a cursory examination it was evident that the document was a forgery. The picture was not originally attached to the card, but had been transferred from another document. Further German analysis was of the card was stopped by the Israelis since it was not helping their case.

Insert -- A Personal note that I would like to mention here is the height of John on this card is given as 1 metre 75 cm. I am 1 metre 86 cm and John at 91, was almost as tall as myself standing next to me leaning on his crutches.

These were some of the main shortcomings related to the Trawniki card that raised serious doubts about its authenticity. Yet the Munich court held there was no reasonable doubt about it.

2. Danilchenko statement of misinformation.
Given that Demjanjuk was accused of being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 victims, it would seem that such a guard would have been well known and readily identifiable by survivors of Sobibor whose fate would have been in his hands. Yet according to Sheftel, of the dozen Jewish survivors of Sobibor throughout the world who were questioned from 1976 onward, by both the American investigators and the Israeli authorities, none identified Demjanjuk’s picture as that of a guard from Sobibor. This was significant since it contradicted the evidence of Ignat Danilchenko who claimed he served with Demjanjuk in Sobibor whilst being interrogated in 1979 by the Soviet KGB. After his interrogation, Danilchenko said he was tortured by the KGB which discredited his assertions. He passed away without ever being cross-examined by the defence on the identification or his claims.

Insert – Another personal note that I would like to mention here is the German language factor. One of the reasons why Yoram Sheftel, the Israeli attorney who defended Demjanjuk in Israel was convinced John was not at Sobibor or any other camp as a guard was because he did not recognise the word GEWALT. This was the word Jewish victims would shout as they were shuffled to their death. Gewalt is a German word which means ‘use of force’. All Trawinki’s were taught German. John’s German even after this last stay in Germany, was non-existent.

See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxIoGqfXGyI

3. Transfer lists
There was evidence led that Demjanjuk’s name appeared on Nazi transfer lists assigning him to Sobibor. There was some confusion about this since Demjanjuk’s name also appeared on another transfer list dealing with Lublin apparently punished for unlawfully leaving a camp there. Was he at both camps? The court established that Demjanjuk was indeed present in Sobibor. But this alone was not enough to convict Demjanjuk of the crime as alleged. The prosecution needed to prove complicity in accessory to the murder of 27,900 victims.
A fundamental principle of Western jurisprudence is individual responsibility for one's actions. In criminal law, this requires that the charges against the accused and his responsibility for the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Since there was no direct evidence of guilt against John Demjanjuk, the case had to be proven on circumstantial evidence. If anything, the evidence in the Demjanjuk case supported a reasonable inference that he was innocent.

In their desire to condemn the transgressions of Germany’s past, the prosecutors and judges in the Demjanjuk case, from its beginnings in the United States to Munich, failed to follow elementary rules of fairness, due process and the rule of law. In the end, however, this case was not really about the trial of Ivan Demjanjuk. It was about the trial of modern-day Germany, of Israel before that, and by extension, since the case started there, of the United States. They employed immigration instead of criminal rules to lower the standard of proof for the prosecution, they knowingly withheld key evidence from the defence and were found by a U.S. appeals court to have committed prosecutorial misconduct, they deported instead of extradited Demjanjuk to Germany, they invented new theories of guilt unknown to the law and detached from personal responsibility and they allowed the case to be politicized to become a show trial.

The irony of the Demjanjuk case lies in the fact that despite all these efforts to convict him, according to German law, no conviction stands until all appeal rights have been exhausted. In other words, despite what the international media may say, according to German law, and Israeli and American law for that matter, Demjanjuk was never found guilty of any crime. His long nightmare is finally over. At long last he can now rest in peace.

More at : http://www.xoxol.org/dem/dem.html, and http://www.xoxol.org/dem/declaration.html


Mykhayl | 11Apr2012 at 20:29
Beatification for John Demjanjuk - NOW !!!

FREE & INNOCENT! | 11Apr2012 at 19:17
He died a free and innocent man in the surroundings of a resort Nursing Home that 99.9% of the world would love to live in! And that's a fact. Another FACT is that there is NO evidence that he ever harmed or killed Anyone Anywhere at ANT TIME! Thats all that counts. For the best History read the books by Uli Busch or Myron Kuropas -both available on Amazon.com.

elmer | 11Apr2012 at 17:10
No doubt people are very familiar with the book "Les Miserables" about a French inspector who hounds his target.

I don't know whether Demjanjuk was a good man or not.

I know that for 35 years, he was hounded by a special unit within the US Dept of Justice, which was reprimanded by a federal appellate court for its, shall we say, "aggressive" tactics.

The resources of the entire US government were available to hound Demjanjuk.

So were the resources of Israel and Germany.

So were the resources of the evil empire, the psychotic sewer, the sovok union.

In Israel, the results were markedly different, and Israel declined to further prosecute him after he was acquitted on appeal.

His long nightmare is indeed over.

як би ви знали паничі

 Mykhayl | 11Apr2012 at 17:16
Wrong !
Thy nightmare called Demjanjuk is over !

 fraudie "mykhayl" | 11Apr2012 at 18:44
obviously your nightmare isn't over...pleasant dreams heh,heh