• Germany's news in English

Demjanjuk vows to fight death camp charges

AFP · 12 May 2009, 17:39

Published: 12 May 2009 17:39 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

After losing a months-long battle to stay in the United States, Demjanjuk landed in a specially-chartered plane at an isolated area of Munich airport where he was met by officials from the state prosecutor's office.

Photos showed Demjanjuk - who his family says suffers from kidney disease and blood disorders - lying down with tubes in his nostrils, dressed in a leather jacket and a baseball cap. Doctors accompanying him on the overnight flight from Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport said he slept for most of the journey, according to prosecutors.

Germany issued a warrant for Demjanjuk's arrest on March 11 on charges of helping to murder 29,000 Jews during his time as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943.

However, Demjanjuk's lawyer, Ulrich Busch, said his client denied that he was in Sobibor. "But even if he had been there, he should still be acquitted. He comes from Ukraine and would have been a so-called foreign guard" forced into service by the Nazis,” Busch added.

Courts in both Israel and the United States have previously stated he was a guard at Sobibor, charges he had never previously challenged.

Demjanjuk was transferred upon arrival to nearby Stadelheim prison – the same prison Adolf Hitler served a month-long sentence in 1922 for disturbing the peace. “If he is deemed fit, he will have the 21-page charge sheet read to him on Tuesday and if no new evidence surfaces, he will be formally charged "within weeks," the prosecution said.

Demjanjuk is right at the top of Nazi hunters' most-wanted list, and was

sentenced to death by an Israeli court two decades ago, suspected of being the feared death camp guard nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible" who would hack at naked prisoners with a sword. That verdict was overturned in 1993 when statements from former guards identified another man as "Ivan the Terrible."

German television reported that a survivor of the Sobibor camp could help confirm Demjanjuk's identity. The witness, 82-year-old Thomas Blatt, has described the conditions at Sobibor akin to a death factory.

"They abused us. They shot new arrivals who were old and sick and could not go on. And there were some who pushed naked people into the gas chambers with bayonets," Blatt told the latest edition of Spiegel magazine. "Sobibor was a factory. Only a few hours passed between arrival and the burning of a body."

Demjanjuk's relatives, however, say there is nothing to tie him to any deaths at the camp.

"Given the history of this case and not a shred of evidence that he ever

hurt one person let alone murdered anyone anywhere, this is inhuman even if the courts have said it is lawful," his son John wrote on Monday. "This is not justice, it is a vendetta in the falsified name of justice with the hope that somehow Germany will atone for its past."

If Demjanjuk comes to trial it "will probably be the last trial of a Nazi war criminal", Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre said.

Story continues below…

However, Kurt Schrimm, director of the Central Investigation Centre for Nazi Crimes, told the daily Leipziger Volkszeitung: "We still have a lot ahead of us this year. There are similar cases to that of Mr Demjanjuk."

The president of the Central Council for Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, called for authorities to move swiftly.

"Now it is time to do everything legally possible to bring Demjanjuk before a court. This is a race against time," she said in a statement. "This is not about revenge but rather about justice for those crimes of which the Munich prosecutor's office accuses (Demjanjuk)."

Demjanjuk was suspect number three in the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's latest report on Nazi war criminals behind two others thought already dead. His deportation marked the end of months of legal wrangling, culminating in an appeal to the US Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

The Local List
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Photo: DPA

So you've mastered German, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

Iconic German church being eroded away by human urine
Ulm Minster towering over the rest Ulm surrounding the Danube. Photo: Pixabay

It will now cost you €100 to spend a penny. That’s if you get caught choosing to pee against the world-famous Ulm Minster.

German small arms ammo exports grow ten-fold
Photo: DPA

The government has come in for criticism after new figures revealed that Germany exported ten times the quantity of small arms ammunition in the first half of 2016 as in the same period last year.

14-year-old stabs 'creepy clown' in prank gone wrong
File photo: DPA.

A 16-year-old in Berlin decided he wanted to scare some friends, but his plot backfired in a violent way.

Four Ku Klux Klan groups active in Germany, says govt
An American member of the KKK at a gathering in Georgia. Photo: EPA.

The German government estimates that there are four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) groups currently active in the country, according to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Tuesday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder to mediate in supermarket row
Gerhard Schröder. Photo: DPA

Can Gerhard Schröder bring an end to the Kaiser's Tengelmann saga?

Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd