Toronto Sun | 30Mar2009 | Orest Slepokura

The Editor:

Re: "Germany targets Demjanjuk," Peter Worthington, The Toronto Sun, 30Mar2009.

The original trial of John Demjanjuk was staged in a movie-theatre, as befits political show trials. The accused was saddled with the moniker "Ivan the Terrible"of Treblinka and often had to endure raucous catcalls from the hecklers in the audience. When the trial ended with a guilty verdict, audience members chimed in with rhythmic chants of "Death! Death!" while others sang and danced in the aisles to show their delight. All in all, an indecorous end to an ultimately self-defeating process that left Nazi hunters with egg on their face.

Against this hoary backdrop, a nonagenarian Demjanjuk again in the prisoner's dock will likely garner considerable sympathy going in -- and more so should this new case against him also prove to be weak and deficient or, even worse, farcical. Holocaust survivors, their families, and friends will, once more, be emotionally torn for no good reason.


Orest Slepokura
Strathmore, Alta

Toronto Sun | 30Mar2009 | Peter Worthington

Germany targets Demjanjuk

Once again, they're going after John Demjanjuk.

This time it's Germany, with an assist from the U.S. Justice Department, both showing what's been described as "amazing hypocrisy" blended with awesome cynicism.

Germany, which refuses to allow its own citizens to be extradited for Nazi war crimes in other countries, is extraditing Demjanjuk from the U.S. to face charges of "accessory to murder" 29,000 Jews at Sobibor death camp in the Second World War.

Born in Ukraine, Demjanjuk, now 89 and in frail health, came to the U.S. around 1952. He settled in Ohio where he raised his family while working as a mechanic at Cleveland's Ford auto plant.

His story is like many others -- yet like no other.

In 1977 the Justice Department sought to have Demjanjuk's citizenship revoked when Holocaust survivors identified his photo as being the sadistic "Ivan the Terrible" at Treblinka death camp. The same photos were used to identify a man named Federenko as a Treblinka guard.

Demjanjuk denied charges and said he'd been conscripted into the Red Army in 1940 and was captured by the Germans in 1942. He co-operated with the Germans and subsequently worked as a perimeter guard at Sobibor, with no direct contact with prisoners.
[W.Z. To my knowledge, John Demjanjuk has always denied ever being in Sobibor.]

The courts ruled he had lied on entry papers to the U.S., and that he'd served as an SS guard at Treblinka. In 1983 [1986], he was extradited to Israel, and in 1986 [1987] was put on trial as a war criminal.
[W.Z. Subsequently, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) had perpetrated fraud on the court in facilitating his extradition to Israel, since they had in their possession documented proof that Mr. Demjanjuk had never been in Treblinka.]


Throughout this ordeal his American son-in-law, Ed Nishnik, relentlessly sought to prove Demjanjuk's innocence. The Soviet Union provided evidence against him. Demjanjuk's Israeli lawyer became so uneasy about the veracity of the evidence that he committed suicide.  Still, the Israeli court found Demjanjuk guilty of all charges, and in 1988 sentenced him to be hanged.
[W.Z. This probably refers to Dov Eitan, who joined the Demjanjuk defense to prepare the appeal of the death sentence and who was defenestrated from a fifteen story window on 29Nov1988.]

Nishnik went to Ukraine, dug up new material, and appealed to Israel's supreme court. In 1993, in light of new evidence, five supreme court judges overturned the guilty verdict, ruling that they had convicted the wrong man as "Ivan the Terrible" at Treblinka -- courageous, honest and an everlasting tribute to Israeli justice.

Ivan the Terrible was in reality one Ivan Marchenko, who had since died, but who had operated the Treblinka gas chambers. Acknowledging the "mistaken identity," the Israeli Supreme Court acquitted Demjanjuk "of the terrible charges" alleged against him.

The court refused to allow other charges because it would constitute double jeopardy, and because new charges were mild compared to the Treblinka ones. Demjanjuk was freed.

In 1998 a U.S. federal court restored his U.S. citizenship.
[W.Z. ... after ruling that the OSI had perpetrated fraud on the court to revoke his citizenship.]

Then the Justice Department issued a new complaint, ignoring their error of Treblinka, and said Demjanjuk was a guard at Sobibor and Majdanek. The judge ruled Demjanjuk hadn't produced proof of his whereabouts in the war and he was again stripped of citizenship.


In 2005 he was ordered extradited to Ukraine, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal. But Ukraine didn't want him. So Demjanjuk remained stateless in the U.S. -- until Germany's Holocaust crimes prosecutor filed for extradition. This March he was charged with 29,000 counts of accessory to murder Jews at Sobibor death camp.

European specialist John Rosenthal notes hypocrisy and cynicism in that the Bundestag has allowed the statue of limitation to expire on crimes attributed to German concentration camp personnel, and that it "prevents its homegrown and genuine Nazis from facing war crimes charges abroad."

In other words, by charging Demjanjuk, Germany depicts itself as "thorough and vigilant" about prosecuting Nazi war crimes.