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Nazi guard Demjanjuk convicted but set free

The Local · 12 May 2011, 17:05

Published: 12 May 2011 12:57 GMT+02:00
Updated: 12 May 2011 17:05 GMT+02:00

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At the end of a trial lasting 18 months, frequently delayed by Demjanjuk’s complaints of health problems, judges convicted the 91-year-old on Thursday and sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment.

However, the court decided to release him pending an expected appeal. He would not have to go to prison in the meantime because he was old, could not travel and posed no danger to German society, the court said. Furthermore, he had already served precisely two years in prison while awaiting the verdict.

"He will be freed today," Margarete Noetzel, a spokeswoman for the court, told news agency AFP.

Given his advanced age, it now looks unlikely that he will serve the full five years, or perhaps any more time behind bars.

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, deported to Germany from the United States in 2009, also cannot travel because he is stateless, having been stripped of his US citizenship in 2002 for lying about his war record on immigration forms.

His son John Demjanjuk Jr. said that his family planned to appeal Thursday's conviction.

Earlier, Judge Ralph Alt told the court in Munich he was convinced that Demjanjuk was a guard at the Sobibor death camp "and that as guard he took part in murder of at least 28,000 people."

Demjanjuk maintains his silence

Demjanjuk, deported in 2009 from the United States, where he had lived for several decades after World War II, listened to the sentence in his wheelchair and was then moved to a stretcher in the courtroom.

As the judge read out his decision, an interpreter translated into Ukrainian for Demjanjuk, who kept on his dark glasses and did not move.

Demjanjuk had been brought into the packed courtroom in a wheelchair on Thursday, as usual, wearing a light-blue baseball cap, dark glasses and an army-style green coat which he took off after arriving.

Drinking a glass of water, he was moved to a bed in the courtroom and then appeared to be asleep. During the morning session he was offered the chance for the last time to address the court, but he declined.

Demjanjuk has kept silent throughout the 18 months of proceedings, sitting in a wheelchair or lying on a stretcher. His health was often a cause for concern during the trial, leading to frequent delays.

The former Red Army soldier was captured by German troops in 1942 and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp before signing up to work as a death camp guard.

The prosecution has argued that if he worked as a camp guard, by definition, he is guilty of accessory to the murders of all the Jews killed there at the time.

The high-profile trial, seen as one of the last to involve an alleged Nazi war criminal, has led to much soul-searching on the subject of delayed justice.

The fact that Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian-born prisoner-of-war who now faces justice at the hands of the nation behind the Holocaust has also raised questions.

He is in fact the first foreigner to be judged in Germany for Nazi war crimes.

His lawyer, Ulrich Busch, has described him as "a victim of Germany's justice system".

Reaction pours in

Reaction to the verdict came in from around the world. The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center today praised the guilty verdict.

“John Demjanjuk’s Nazi past finally caught up with him,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center. “For decades he skirted justice, living a normal life with his family in the United States, successfully covering up his past.

“Today a German court finally put an end to his disguise and set the record straight that he was, in fact, one of the sadistic and brutal murderers at Sobibor and sentenced him to, what for a 91-year-old man, is a life sentence in jail.”

Earlier he served nearly eight years in an Israeli prison, five of them on death row after being found guilty in the 1980s of being the particularly sadistic "Ivan the Terrible" guard at Treblinka, another death camp.

Story continues below…

The Israeli supreme court later overturned the verdict and ordered his release on the grounds that he had likely been wrongly identified.

Serge Klarsfeld, a French lawyer and Nazi hunter, has expressed frustration with the trial, saying it failed to provide new details about the case and could not prove Demjanjuk's direct participation in the killings.

"The witnesses are all dead and there are no documents because he was only a small fish," Klarsfeld told AFP. A guilty verdict "would open the door to accusations of unfair justice," he added.

Much of the case for the prosecution rode on whether an identity card - number 1393 - made out by the SS to one Ivan Demjanjuk who was trained with them to become a prison guard and who was sent to Sobibor, was genuine and belonged to the man in court.

The defence insisted it is a fake, adding that no witnesses could place him at the camp.

Cornelius Nestler, a lawyer for the co-plaintiffs, relatives of those killed at Sobibor, said Germany was duty-bound to prosecute Demjanjuk even though the crimes were committed years ago.

"The judicial system and society do not have the right to ignore the facts, saying we just don't want to look at this any more, as used to be the case in the 1950s and 1960s when much of society and much of the justice system felt this way," he told the court.

AFP/DAPD/The Local/djw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:27 May 12, 2011 by Englishted
"Bavaria won't extradite Nazi hitman"

Headline also in the local.

One is a German one is Ukrainian but now stateless please explain this if it is not racism ?.
13:42 May 12, 2011 by n230099
"Serge Klarsfeld, a French lawyer and Nazi hunter, has expressed frustration with the trial, saying it failed to provide new details about the case and could not prove Demjanjuk's direct participation in the killings."

I guess we all understand Germany's feelings of guilt here and their need to make up for what the horrors they loosed on the world in necessitating two world wars. The need to say "we've changed" is apparently still strong. So strong in fact, that, now that the pool of those that can be sacrificed is getting so small, they now are actually saying "yeah, we're not real sure about this one but in these days, we'll take what we can get.
13:55 May 12, 2011 by DOZ
Just another example of German Railroading. Germans come to Canada, the NDP wants you.
14:46 May 12, 2011 by auniquecorn
Well, there's one 91-year-old Nazi who won't be hurting anyone else for at least 5 years

As quoted by fark.com
15:04 May 12, 2011 by finanzdoktor
Hey auniquecorn,

Too bad the other one is living a life of leisure in the German country-side. Talk about being hypocritical, in the other case Germany wants new evidence presented, though he was convicted and sentenced in the Netherlands in 1952. Yet, they use old evidence which cannot be collaborated in this case.

Don't get me wrong. If both are guilty, then they should be punished, but let's punish both and not just one.
16:52 May 12, 2011 by Soonerdiver
And, if by chance, Mr. Demjanjuk is still living in 5 years where will the German Government send him? He was allocated an interpreter but probably speaks better English than most. He lived and workd for many decades and it was his new language... just another way to bilk the German Government! Either way... justice served!
18:25 May 12, 2011 by rfwilson
@ Englishted

"One is a German one is Ukrainian but now stateless please explain this if it is not racism ?. "

You obviously haven't a clue what the word racism means! Both people you have identified are Caucasian, therefore racism in this instance is impossible. Switch brain on before engaging mouth!
18:26 May 12, 2011 by EastPrussia
I think its funny that he "appeared to be asleep". Says a lot about this case, doesn't it? If Israel acquitted him, than who else feels the need to prosecute this man? At this point, it is just harassment of an elderly person.
19:08 May 12, 2011 by toemag
I just love to watch the taxpayers €'s being flushed down the tubes ;-( Stateless person, to ill to travel, guess he'll be staying here now, best retirement plan ever ;-) Hope he lives to be 112years old.

Stupid is what stupid does ;-)
19:57 May 12, 2011 by Englishted

in British law the phrase racial group means "any group of people who are defined by reference to their race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origin".


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,

NATIONALITY( including citizenship)

Please search a definition before bringing into question my English.
22:25 May 12, 2011 by EastPrussia
I agree with Englishted - racism can be perpetrated against ANY ethnic group - even white people. We aren't the only type of people capable of being prejudice!
23:13 May 12, 2011 by MfromUSA
It has just occurred to me that Germany may yet be living fully it's tendency to disregard the value of human life................by that, I mean that Germany is repeatedly showing that the deaths of INNOCENTS don't really matter.

What Germany seems most intent upon proving is that it will protect and/or defend those who commit heinous crimes, under the guise of having a humane and "legal" response to those who are war criminals.

HHMMMMMMM...................my opinion re. this man is that he is likely a psychopath.

He "appeared to sleep "......just like a snake in the grass, or a fox!

Germany was duped by his "pathetic old man" presentation.
00:08 May 13, 2011 by bernie1927

You seem to indicate that he will be in jail for the next 5 years, yet the title of the article is: Nazi guard Demjanjuk convicted but set free. So, what is it?
21:33 May 13, 2011 by Cutsnakeski
This is weird, people hiding disgraceful criminal animals behind political / judicial jargon? We all understand it the legal jargon, it just has lost the meaning of it's actual purpose. And you debate semantics of the legal rubbish. Are the laws made by alleged insane dictators relevant later? Back to the basics - did they do it? Is cowardly killing bad? Does age make someone unaccoutable? Deal with it!
05:39 May 14, 2011 by dr.makni49
What else you want to make out of this skeleton? Well, there are people who committed far more crimes in the same era and their graves are buried under heap of flowers. Sermons must point towards all directions and not one.

Some flawed debates by those who are haunted by revenge and prejudice. Remember genocide is alive since 14th century , living well and shall live on well.
17:42 May 14, 2011 by Curmudgeon
Under German law, it appears that anyone is guilty of any allegation regarding any event, real or fictitious, alleged to have happened during WWII.

Missing at the crime scene:

location; bodies; identification of bodies; time of death; cause of death; murder weapon; and credible witnesses to place the accused at the crime scene at the time of death.

This man has been hounded for more than 25 years for alleged crimes. The Israeli Supreme Court quashed his conviction for alleged crimes at Sobibor because the ID was ruled a fake.
19:23 May 14, 2011 by Bertie
Justice has been done again, as always!!! Who is going to be the next??
01:04 May 15, 2011 by ginweb
There was no justice! Sure, he was convicted but he is free to go "home". Were innocent victims of the Holocaust given any sort of reprieve for their age or health? I think not.
18:36 May 16, 2011 by Anthony Schlega
I think in answer to Ivan D.¦#39;s, or John D¦#39;s persecuted life is one that I have been personally troubled with for just as long as the many years that have been stretched with the chase of a conviction of John D.

My father was a WWII Ukrainian victim of both Stalin and Hitler. I begin to wonder where all these survivors of Stalinism, and Nazism, of horrific inhuman experiences that one cannot possibly imagine happening in our modern western world, can fit in with the verdict and justification that has now convicted John D. in Munich, Germany.

Personally living here in Germany for more than thirty years, and working for the US Government for ten of these, I have met more than one person (that are still alive today) from various countries, that have worked for both US and German governments, and who wore not only the German Uniform of the Whermacht, but also of the SS.

These people ¦#39;are¦#39; known, and are not living in hiding. They are quite easy to track down by the German Government themselves.

So the question that I now raise is, ¦quot;what will it bring if I, myself, or anyone else, personally presses charges against known ex SS Guards, as the meaning of SS is Schutzen Staffel which translates into Guard Squadron.

So under the same reasoning: that as a guard he took part in murder of at least 28,000 people", does this mean that the people I know, of both male and female sexes, all in their late ages - but they still are alive have to be prosecuted under the same reasoning?

Where and when does it stop? When the money runs out?

I though it already had.

Anthony Shlega

18:45 May 16, 2011 by captnheartless
Does it matter? The man is how old?? Surely, he lives with the thought of the plenty he helped slaughter everyday. That in it's self is punishment enough.

And given from a slight religious stance... Justice comes out in the end, with an all mighty ruling [aka. a god of an afterlife].
23:33 May 16, 2011 by FIUMAN
THIS is not Justice. Germany has much to be ashamed of in their post WWII lethargy when it came to pursuing mass murdering perpetrators of the Shoah. I am reminded that the French let Klaus Barbie rot in a horrid cell until he died a terrible, nasty little death like the vermin he was. Demjanjuk is human trash and should have been sent back to the USSR in the 1980s where he would have been given and swift and lethal doze of justice. What happened in Germany does not serve justice. If ANY good comes out of the Demjanjuk trial it will be the continued forcing of the government to revisit the facts of criminality associated with the Shoah. Trials like these should stand as a warning to all who serve the public that they serve the WHOLE public and that the limits of their powers end at the rights of individual citizens.
12:24 May 19, 2011 by nolibs
@fiuman - Germany has nothing to be ashamed of. The war is long over and you should get over it too. The world learned its lesson after WWI about not moving on and continually punishing the loser.

May I remind you that Demjanjuk was set free after Israel illegally kidnapped him and prosecuted him? If anyone would have found him guilty, it would be Israel. So, it looks like the real criminal is the Wiesenthal Center, which has hounded this poor man for decades.

Oh, and if you look at history you'll see that the Jews declared war on Germany in 1933. Just Google, "Judea Declares War on Germany" and see for yourself. I'm not saying that Jews deserved to be killed, just that there is more to WWII than we are taught...or allowed to discuss.
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