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Munich - Demjanjuk 'Willingly' Aided in Murder of Jews, Prosecutor Says

Published on: December 1, 2009 11:35 AM
By: AP
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Demjanjuk in Court Photo: Munich PressDemjanjuk in Court Photo: Munich Press

Munich - Prosecutors accused John Demjanjuk of playing an active role in the Nazis’ machinery of destruction, saying Tuesday that he was a willing follower of Hitler’s racist ideology as they read the indictment against the retired Ohio autoworker.

The 89-year-old, who was deported from the United States in May to stand trial in Germany, rejects the charges of being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews in the Sobibor death camp, saying he has been mistaken for someone else.

Demjanjuk — who suffers from several medical problems — was wheeled in to the Munich state court on a gurney Tuesday, slightly propped up lying on his back. He arrived much the same way on Monday, the day the trial began.

A blanket covered his legs and his leather jacket was zipped up to his neck. He wore a blue baseball cap and kept his eyes closed as the 10-page indictment was read by prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz.

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Demjanjuk showed little reaction, but put his left hand to his brow as Lutz detailed how Jews were stripped of their belongings and clothes, then led naked into the gas chambers of Sobibor.

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk maintains that he was a Soviet soldier who was captured by the Germans, and spent most of the rest of the war in prison camps.

But Lutz told the five-judge panel he would seek to prove Demjanjuk volunteered to serve the Nazis once he had been captured, and was a willing participant in the Holocaust.

Lutz told the court that Demjanjuk learned how to be a guard at the SS training camp at Trawniki and was then posted to the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in March 1943.

“As a guard, he took part in all the various parts of the extermination process after the deportation trains arrived,” Lutz said, reading the indictment.

Lutz said Demjanjuk could have deserted, but chose to stay in the camp.

“He willingly participated in the killing of the Jews because he wanted them dead for his own racist ideological reasons,” Lutz said.

Presiding Judge Ralph Alt asked Demjanjuk if he wanted to respond to the indictment but his attorney, Ulrich Busch, said Demjanjuk would make no comment.

During a short break after the indictment was read, a doctor checked Demjanjuk, who seemed more animated than during the proceedings. He opened his eyes, talked with those around him and took a drink of water.

His defense has previously said the prosecution has no witnesses who remember Demjanjuk from Sobibor and that its other evidence is weak. They suggest Demjanjuk is a victim of mistaken identity — something that has happened before.

In the 1980s, Demjanjuk was extradited by the United States for trial in Israel on charges that he was the notoriously brutal guard at Treblinka who earned the moniker “Ivan the Terrible.”

Demjanjuk was convicted in 1988 of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and spent seven years in prison until Israel’s Supreme Court in 1993 overturned the conviction. It ruled that another person, not Demjanjuk, was “Ivan the Terrible.”

As the trial resumed Tuesday, Busch filed a motion for the process to be thrown out, arguing that it had been illegal to deport Demjanjuk from the U.S. instead of extradite him, and that the Sobibor charges were addressed in the Israel trial so the current process constitutes double jeopardy — trying a person twice for the same crime.

Alt said he would rule later on the motion, but has previously rejected several similar pretrial motions by Busch.

Court sessions in the trial are scheduled through next May.

If convicted, Demjanjuk faces a possible 15 years in prison.

However, he could be given credit in sentencing for some or all of the time he spent behind bars in Israel. Even if acquitted, Demjanjuk — who has been stripped of his U.S. citizenship — likely will have to remain in Germany.


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Read Comments (16)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Dec 01, 2009 at 11:50 AM moshe Says:

yemach shmo!

2

 Dec 01, 2009 at 12:02 PM Pitiful Says:

He looks more dead than alive.. Wy waste time and money on a trial?

3

 Dec 01, 2009 at 12:05 PM redsoxfan Says:

What a slap in the face for the nazi's lawyer to clain that demyanyuk is being treated worse then the jews of sobibar
they should arrest him as well
anti semitism at its best
let john walk naked in the forest, dig his own pit and then get shot from a bunch of cowards and then lets see who is getting treated bad

4

 Dec 01, 2009 at 12:31 PM Eli from..... who cares? Says:

15 years for killing 27 900 people????? They should give him 20 years for each one he killed: my Calculator says give him 558000 years in prison (and for good behavior will give him off 15 years) I mean if you give rubashkin 1200 years how could he get away with 15? This is really crazy. And I think they should get a move on it before he dies because he doesn't deserve to die without sitting. I really hope they convict him for every Jew he killed! Have a great day!

5

 Dec 01, 2009 at 01:41 PM Groningen Says:

Eli,
1) that's 15 years for being accomplice (just accomplice, so that's a couple of millenia off), for the murder on thousands of people of which they could find the identity of just about 27,900 (that should be some months extra).
2) Rubashkin and Demjanjuk cannot be compared. Different crimes, different laws, different justice systems. The Germans would never have demanded anything over 60 years in the Rubashkin case.

6

 Dec 01, 2009 at 02:32 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Pitiful Says:

He looks more dead than alive.. Wy waste time and money on a trial?

lawyers dress him up like that on purpose so people should pity him

7

 Dec 01, 2009 at 03:04 PM Avremele Says:

Reply to #5  
Groningen Says:

Eli,
1) that's 15 years for being accomplice (just accomplice, so that's a couple of millenia off), for the murder on thousands of people of which they could find the identity of just about 27,900 (that should be some months extra).
2) Rubashkin and Demjanjuk cannot be compared. Different crimes, different laws, different justice systems. The Germans would never have demanded anything over 60 years in the Rubashkin case.

Just an accomplice? realy do you beleive it?

8

 Dec 01, 2009 at 03:23 PM yudi101 Says:

its not over just yet.

9

 Dec 01, 2009 at 05:43 PM anonymous Says:

He is a trawniki. Trawnikis were trained by the SS to unload the trains of the Jews arriving in Trebl;inka, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Belzec as fast as possible those unable to walk either were clubbed to death or shot and the same applies to small Jewish children. The whol trial is a joke and farce and those who know anything about the trawnikis would be glad to treat this beast the same as he treated Jews condemned by the Nazis which he aided willingly

10

 Dec 01, 2009 at 06:15 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Pitiful Says:

He looks more dead than alive.. Wy waste time and money on a trial?

So that he can die in shame either during or right after the trial during which he is being deprived of his last peaceful days just as he deprived so many innocents of their peaceful lives.

Ymach shmo veyeabed zichro. He should be dismembered in small pieces over a month or two's time.

11

 Dec 01, 2009 at 07:55 PM ish-emess Says:

I am still trying to understand,

whats in it for the Germans, to prosecute him at this time?

they look good to the world?

Abe

12

 Dec 01, 2009 at 09:24 PM Anonymous Says:

let him hang, marinate in his own blood, and be eaten alive by wolves. HUNGRY ones...

13

 Dec 02, 2009 at 12:18 AM me Says:

"As the trial resumed Tuesday, Busch filed a motion for the process to be thrown out, arguing that it had been illegal to deport Demjanjuk from the U.S. instead of extradite him, and that the Sobibor charges were addressed in the Israel trial so the current process constitutes double jeopardy — trying a person twice for the same crime."

I like the double jeopardy claim. Using the rules of the U.S. Constitution, in a German trial about an incident that occurred in Poland.

Despite the health claims, Demjanjuk was videotaped walking about on his own and entering and leaving a car without assistance. He wishes to follow in the footsteps of Sobibor's Lager I Kommandant Karl Frenzel, who was convicted of war crimes in 1966 and sentenced to life, but ultimately released on health grounds in 1982; he died in 1996.

14

 Dec 02, 2009 at 08:05 AM joe tribiany Says:

finealy we got him back to trial

15

 Dec 02, 2009 at 03:57 AM Groningen Says:

Reply to #7  
Avremele Says:

Just an accomplice? realy do you beleive it?

Yep, he was one of more than a hundred murderers there, so it will be very hard to pinpoint even one specific murder of all those thousands of murders on him. They do not seem to have eye witnesses who saw him actually murder people, and he was not a gangleader.
I don't care how many years he is gets, as long as he is not living to the end of his time in prison.

Anon 12. what have wolves done to you that you want to starve and poison them with Demjanjuk?

16

 Dec 07, 2009 at 12:41 PM Bugsy Siegel Says:

He is faking on his health. He always pretends to be sick to gain sympathy. Do not fall for his ruse. He also had to wheelchaired out of his home in Michigan for sympathy. He could have been on trial 15 years ago when he was healthier but who would have had sympathy for him then?

17

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