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CRIME

‘Ivan the Terrible’ Nazi guard gets to stay in US for now

Suspected Nazi guard John Demjanjuk can remain in the United States while an immigration court considers his latest appeal against extradition to Germany, US officials said Wednesday.

'Ivan the Terrible' Nazi guard gets to stay in US for now
Photo: DPA

“It is a subject for the courts at this point,” said Pat Reilly, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “When he is removable – when he no longer has legal recourse – we will remove him.”

Demjanjuk, who changed his name from Ivan to John after emigrating to the United States in 1952, is wanted in Germany on charges of assisting in the murders of thousands of Jews at Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

He was stripped of his US citizenship in 2008 and last month US officials began the process of extraditing the now-stateless Demjanjuk to Germany to stand trial for crimes allegedly committed more than 60 years ago.

His lawyer won him a brief stay of deportation last week while immigration officials debated whether to reopen the Ukrainian-born former autoworker’s “removal” case.

That stay expired Wednesday, but officials said they will await the outcome of additional motions filed Tuesday before they take action.

“We’ll file a response and see what happens from there,” US Department of Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney told AFP.

Demjanjuk’s lawyer has argued that the octogenarian is in poor health, and that jailing and trying him in Germany would cause him pain amounting to torture.

But the US Office of Special Investigations maintained that all of Demjanjuk’s requests must be rejected.

His submissions, the office said, are “based on speculation, erroneous assumptions … and, fundamentally, on a novel and frivolous claim that legitimate German proceedings that may be commenced against him would be designed to cause him suffering and would subject him to severe mental and physical anguish.”

Demjanjuk’s family has also filed motions in Germany requesting that the government reconsider its extradition request.

“We’re trying to stop what we believe to be an inhumane action,” Demjanjuk’s son John Jr. told AFP.

“There is zero chance that my dad will face trial in Germany,” said the younger Demjanjuk, adding that he expects a decision on the extradition appeal at any time. “There remains a chance that he will be deported to Germany. But if he is deported to Germany, he will live out his remaining days in a German hospital, not in a court of law.”

German prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Demjanjuk last month, accusing him of complicity in murdering at least 29,000 Jews at Sobibor death camp, where he allegedly served between March and September 1943.

Former wartime inmates of Nazi camps in occupied Poland in 1977 identified Demjanjuk as the brutal Ukrainian prison guard “Ivan the Terrible” during a US Justice Department investigation.

Demjanjuk was sentenced to death by a court in Israel, but the penalty was overturned five years later by Israel’s Supreme Court after statements from other former guards identified another man as the sadistic “Ivan.”

Demjanjuk’s son said the current case against his father is based on the same flawed and false evidence that led to his acquittal in Israel.

“They had the wrong guy in Israel and they’re going to get the wrong guy in Germany,” he said in a telephone interview. “Nobody to this day, nobody ever will be able to provide evidence that he was involved in the killing of one person.”

He handed the court a video of Demjanjuk being examined by a physician hired by immigration officials to determine if he was fit to travel.

In the video, Demjanjuk speaks of his fears of how he will cope in Germany after the doctor helps him back into bed.

“What happens to me over there? You don’t care,” he said, according to a transcript supplied by his son.

“Because who goes behind me (when) I need help? I have here my family to help me. Who help me over there, huh? Just think, just think. This is the torture. That’s the torture.”

CRIME

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

A German court on Tuesday handed a five-year jail sentence to a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person so far to go on trial for complicity in war crimes during the Holocaust.

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

Josef S. was found guilty of being an accessory to murder while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945, presiding judge Udo Lechtermann said.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, had pleaded innocent, 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 at the close of his trial on Monday.

But prosecutors said he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the camp and called for him to be punished with five years behind bars.

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

More than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and gay people, were detained at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1936 and 1945.

Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labour, murder, medical experiments, hunger or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

Prosecutors said the man had aided and abetted the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B”.

He was 21 years old at the time.

Contradictory statements

During the trial, S. made several inconsistent statements about his past, complaining that his head was getting “mixed up”.

At one point, the centenarian said he had worked as an agricultural labourer in Germany for most of World War II, a claim contradicted by several historical documents bearing his name, date and place of birth.

After the war, the man was transferred to a prison camp in Russia before returning to Germany, where he worked as a farmer and a locksmith.

He remained at liberty during the trial, which began in 2021 but has been delayed several times because of his health.

Despite his conviction, he is highly unlikely to be put behind bars, given his age.

His lawyer Stefan Waterkamp told AFP ahead of the verdict that if found guilty, he would appeal.

More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving Nazi perpetrators to justice.

The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk, on the basis that he served as part of Hitler’s killing machine, set a legal precedent and paved the way for several of these twilight justice cases.

Since then, courts have handed down several guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly linked to the individual accused.

By David COURBET

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