There was no evidence that Demjanjuk committed a specific crime. The prosecution in Germany was based on the theory that if Demjanjuk was at the camp, he was a participant in the killing -- the first time such a legal argument has been made in German courts!
Demjanjuk Convicted for Role in Nazi Death Camp
New York Times May 12, 2011
AN AFTERWORD BY MICHAEL HOFFMAN IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWS THIS REPORT
MUNICH — After a trial lasting almost 18 months, John Demjanjuk, a retired American autoworker who has been the subject of more than three decades of legal proceedings over his Nazi-era past, was convicted here on Thursday of helping to force some 28,000 Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust. He showed no reaction as the court handed down a five-year prison term, The Associated Press reported. It was not immediately clear how much credit he would get for time already served. His defense lawyers have already said they would appeal the conviction. His trial was one of the last of accused Nazi war criminals.
Prosecutors had charged that Mr. Demjanjuk, 91, worked as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943. His trial in Munich, beginning in December 2009, was the second time Mr. Demjanjuk has been prosecuted — he was sentenced to death in Israel in 1988 only to have his conviction overturned five years later as a case of mistaken identity.
When the trial opened in Munich, Mr. Demjanjuk was listed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center as its most wanted Nazi war criminal.
Mr. Demjanjuk declined to make a final statement as he arrived in the courtroom in a wheelchair pushed by a German police officer. He was wearing a pale blue baseball cap and dark glasses.
His trial was held despite arguments by his lawyers and family that he was too sick to participate, because he suffered from ailments including bone marrow disease. Doctors, however, concluded that he could stand trial provide that hearings were restricted to two 90-minute sessions a day.
As survivors and defendants have aged and died, the prosecution of Nazi-era war criminals has become increasingly difficult because, 66 years after the end of World War II, few potential witnesses are still alive. In the absence of specific evidence against him, the case against Mr. Demjanjuk rested on the prosecution's charge that anyone working at the camp at the time he was there shared responsibility for its function of systematic murder.
"The court is convinced that the defendant served as a guard at Sobibor from March 27, 1943, to mid-September, 1943," the presiding judge, Ralph Alt said, according to the A.P.
The prosecution had also produced an identity card from the Nazi S.S. that, prosecutors alleged, shows a young Demjanjuk and indicated that he had undergone training at an S.S. camp. Mr. Demjanjuk's lawyers said that the card was forged by the Soviet K.G.B. (The FBI also said this, but the NY Times does not mention that fact here -- Hoffman)
Mr. Demjanjuk, who was born in Ukraine, was a soldier in the Soviet Army, fighting against the Germans, until he was captured in the Crimea in 1942.
He says he spent most of the remainder of the war as a prisoner. But according to prosecutors, he went to the S.S. training camp in Trawniki, Poland, where foreigners were trained to work as volunteers in the death camps.
The case against Mr. Demjanjuk involved some 15 transport trains known to have arrived between April and July 1943 from the Westerbork concentration camp in the Netherlands, carrying 29,579 people. Prosecutors initially charged Mr. Demjanjuk with 27,900 counts based on the theory that some must have died in transit or been spared for a time to work at the camp. By the end of the trial on Thursday, that figure had been revised to 28,060 counts.
Some 250,000 Jews were killed at Sobibor, most of them poisoned with exhaust fumes.
Mr. Demjanjuk was convicted and sentenced to death in Israel in 1988 as the infamously sadistic Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, only to have his conviction overturned in 1993. He was freed by Israel's Supreme Court after evidence surfaced suggesting that another man was most likely to have been Ivan the Terrible.
In a statement on its Web site the day before the verdict, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said: "This case has historic meaning because while it may be the last 'major' case tried in Germany, it is the first time a non-German has been charged by Germany with Nazi war crimes and brought to trial in Germany."
Speaking to the German news agency on Thursday, Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the organization was "very satisfied" that Mr. Demjanjuk had been sentenced to a prison term. The court's decision "sends a very strong message that even many years after the crimes of the Holocaust, perpetrators can be held to account for their misdeeds," he said.
Avner Shalev, the head of the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance authority in Jerusalem said that, while "no trial can bring back those that were murdered," the conviction of Mr. Demjanjuk showed that theere was "no statute of limitations on the crimes of the Holocaust" and that the killings "could not have taken place without the participation of myriads of Europeans on many levels."
Elan Steinberg, the Vice President of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants said in a statement that the conviction was "a clarion pronouncement that the pursuit of justice should know no barriers of time and geography."
MICHAEL HOFFMAN'S AFTERWORD
Simon Wiesenthal was a con-man and a fantasist.
Look at the lavish attention paid to the statements filled with vengeful, Talmudic crowing by Efraim Zuroff, Avner Shalev and Elan Steinberg, and no coverage given to statements by Demjanjuk's family and supporters.
Why are there no Judaic kapos prosecuted for aiding the Nazis? It is said they were coerced. Demjanjuk was a prisoner of war. No coercion there?
Can any accused "Nazi" get a fair trial in Zionist Germany, where defense attorneys can be arrested for defending their accused clients too vigorously, and where writers and publishers such as Ernst Zundel, rot for years in prison because they dare to doubt Holocaustianity, the last truly believed religion in the otherwise agnostic West?
In 91-year-old John Demjanjuk, the Zionists have their pound of flesh.
FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
Defending Ivan the Terrible: The Justice Department's Conspiracy to Convict John Demjanjuk
by Yoram Sheftel
From the Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2011:
There was no evidence that Demjanjuk committed a specific crime. The prosecution in Germany was based on the theory that if Demjanjuk was at the camp, he was a participant in the killing -- the first time such a legal argument has been made in German courts.
Integral to the German prosecution's case was an SS identity card that allegedly shows a picture of a young Demjanjuk, and indicates he trained at the SS Trawniki camp and was posted to Sobibor.
Though court experts said the card appears genuine, the defense maintains it is a fake produced by the Soviet KGB.
The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Special Investigations also has said the card is genuine, but documents unearthed by The Associated Press indicate that the FBI at one time had doubts similar to those aired by Demjanjuk's defense about the evidence -- though the material was never turned over to them.
In a 1985 report, the FBI's Cleveland, Ohio, field office concluded that: "Justice is ill-served in the prosecution of an American citizen on evidence which is not only normally inadmissible in a court of law, but based on evidence and allegations quite likely fabricated by the KGB."
The revelation has led to new court action in the U.S., with a District Court judge in Cleveland on Tuesday agreeing to appoint a public defender to represent Demjanjuk there, raising the prospect of renewing the decades-old case.