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CRIME

German prosecutors looking to charge ‘Ivan the Terrible’

A German body investigating Nazi war crimes said Monday it had enough evidence for prosecutors to bring charges against an alleged former death camp guard now living in the United States.

German prosecutors looking to charge 'Ivan the Terrible'
Ivan's Nazi ID card for the death camp Photo: DPA

According to a preliminary report, Ukrainian-born Ivan Demjanjuk – nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” – was a guard at the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland between March and September 1943, said the Central Investigation Centre for Nazi Crimes.

The identity of Demjanjuk, who changed his first name to John after emigrating to the United States in the 1950s, has been “100 percent” established, the body’s head Kurt Schrimm told AFP.

He had been extradited to Israel in 1986 where he was sentenced to death two years later for his participation in the slaying of thousands of Jews in a camp in Treblinka.

But the conviction was overturned for lack of evidence by Israel’s Supreme Court in 1993 and Demjanjuk then returned to the United States where he was stripped of US citizenship for having lied about his wartime activities.

Schrimm said the most recent investigation into Demjanjuk’s time in Sobibor was unrelated to this previous Israeli court judgement. “Unlike in other concentration camps, such as Auschwitz, which were also labour camps, Sobibor was set up solely for the purpose of exterminating people,” Schrimm said. “Guards there may therefore not use the excuse that they did not know what was happening.”

The report has now been passed to prosecutors in the southern German city of Munich, where Demjanjuk had his last known address in Germany, Schrimm said.

CRIME

101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

A 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard on Monday once again denied being complicit in war crimes during the Holocaust as his trial drew to a close in Germany.

101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

Josef Schütz, the oldest person so far to face trial over Nazi crimes during World War II, is accused of involvement in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, has pleaded innocent throughout the trial, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said again at the close of the proceedings, his voice wavering.

Dressed in a grey shirt and pyjama bottoms and sitting in a wheelchair, Schütz insisted he had had nothing to do with the atrocities and was “telling the truth”.

READ ALSO: Ex-Nazi death camp secretary who fled trial to face court in Germany

Prosecutors say he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the crimes as a guard at the camp and are seeking to punish him with five years behind bars.

But Schütz’s lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, said that since there were no photographs of him wearing an SS uniform, the case was based on “hints” of his possible involvement.

“As early as 1973, investigators had information about him but did not pursue him. At the time, witnesses could have been heard but now they are all dead or no longer able to speak,” Waterkamp said.

Former Nazi guard

The 101-year-old former Nazi guard covers his face at the Neuruppin courthouse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

It would be a mistake for the court to try to “make up for the mistakes of a previous generation of judges”, the lawyer said.

Antoine Grumbach, 80, whose father died in Sachsenhausen, told AFP Schuetz “does not want to remember”, calling it “a form of defence”.

The trial was not just about “putting a centenarian in prison”, he said. It had also produced evidence that Sachsenhausen was an “experimental extermination camp”.

“All the cruellest methods were invented there and then exported,” Grumbach said.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor

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