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'Holocaust cabaret' about Demjanjuk case plays Heidelberg

DDP/The Local · 29 Mar 2010, 14:56

Published: 29 Mar 2010 14:56 GMT+02:00

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The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk stands accused of helping to gas 27,900 people at the Nazi camp where he was a guard. He has been in custody in the Bavarian capital since May 2009 after being deported from his home in the Cleveland, Ohio.

He is now the topic of writer Jonathan Garfinkel’s play, Die Demjanjuk Prozesse, or “The Demjanjuk Trials,” set to begin on March 31 in Heidelberg.

The drama, which is arranged as a “Holocaust cabaret,” is the 36-year-old author’s attempt to show the human side of Demjanjuk, who has been unyieldingly taciturn during the trial.

He is portrayed as a family man and a hobby gardener who cannot understand the crime of which he is accused.

“I don’t know the real Demjanjuk, but I want to try to humanise him and give him back a few human details,” Garfinkel said. “I’m trying to make him an average American citizen who wants to live the American dream.”

But the protagonist will also be shown as he has actually appeared to the public in the courtroom – seated in a wheel chair, passive and silent. This image inspired Garfinkel to write the play, he said.

“It really strikes me to see how Demjanjuk is becoming a symbol,” he said. “It seems like it has nothing to do with him, but instead Germany’s legal reconciliation with its past.”

As a Jew, Garfinkel said he was brought up among many stories of the Holocaust, and became interested in the stories of the perpetrators.

In 2005 he published an earlier version of the play, “The Trials of John Demjanjuk: A Holocaust Cabaret,” about Demjanjuk’s 1987 Israeli trial, in which he was sentenced to death for the sadistic crimes as a guard known as “Ivan the Terrible” at the Treblinka camp. He was later exonerated in 1993.

Story continues below…

The ruthless character Ivan will also be incorporated in the latest play as Demjanjuk’s alter ego, however.

“I don’t think Demjanjuk is an innocent man, but I believe he has already paid for what he did,” Garfinkel said.

The play runs until the end of May.

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DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:32 March 29, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Not hard to write dialogue for a silent, passive man seated in a wheel chair. Now that's what I call drama!
22:32 March 29, 2010 by wxman
It's always nice to know a probably innocent elderly man's misfortune is making somebody rich. It restores my faith in the free market.
01:28 March 30, 2010 by janreg58
Real justice is what he needs, not a slap in the face! Let him go home and die in peace with his family around him, not these fools!!
16:05 April 1, 2010 by Soonerdiver
Let the judicial system run it's course... if he is guilty then let him pay the price. If found innocent then he can go back to the Ukrain; since his US citizenship has been revoked for lying on his application.

If his family want to be with him when he dies then they can move with him!
04:30 April 3, 2010 by blackminorcapullets
"A Canadian-Jewish playwright is bringing his version of former Sobibor death camp guard John Demjanjuk..."

Umm - do you have any evidence that he was at Sobibor because if you do, it would have saved Israel millions when they tried him of charges of being at Sobibor but found him innocent. The Sobibor survivors who knew all the guards said Demjanjuk was never there.

17:36 April 22, 2010 by kryvonis
You can't make up this kind of comedic farce. Demjanjuk is accused and tried based on a forged U.S.S.R. ID card. He is convicted of - lying on his immigration application. What else to do? Yes! Send him to Israel for justice. Israel convicts him of mass murder, but the Israeli Supreme Court determines that the ID card is a forgery and exonerates him. So, he returns home to die. But wait! Many, many years later Germany extradites him for more trial. I believe this comedy now needs only for Demjanjuk to die, Germany to prop up his freeze-dried corpse in that wheelchair, and convict him of carrying out German orders without recourse to the excuse that he was only following orders. You can't make this stuff up.
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