John Demjanjuk, who battled accusations he was Nazi camp guard, dies at 91 [Article]

John Demjanjuk, a retired U.S. autoworker who was convicted of being a guard at the Nazis’ Sobibor death camp despite steadfastly maintaining over three decades of legal battles that he had been mistaken for someone else died Saturday, his son told The Associated Press. He was 91.

From The Chronicle Herald:

John Demjanjuk Jr. said in a telephone interview from Ohio that his father died in the night of natural causes. Demjanjuk had terminal bone marrow disease, chronic kidney disease and other ailments.

“My father fell asleep with the Lord as a victim and survivor of Soviet and German brutality since childhood,” Demjanjuk Jr. said. “He loved life, family and humanity. History will show Germany used him as a scapegoat to blame helpless Ukrainian POWs for the deeds of Nazi Germans.”

His conviction helped set new German legal precedent, being the first time someone was convicted solely on the basis of serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of being involved in a specific killing.

Despite his conviction, his family never gave up its battle to have his U.S. citizenship reinstated so that he could live out his final days nearby them in the Cleveland area. One of their main arguments was that the defence had never seen a 1985 FBI document, uncovered in early 2011 by The Associated Press, calling into question the authenticity of a Nazi ID card used against him.

Though there are no known witnesses who remember Demjanjuk from Sobibor, prosecutors referred to an SS identity card that they said features a photo of a young, round-faced Demjanjuk and that says he worked at the death camp. That and other evidence indicating Demjanjuk had served under the SS convinced the panel of judges in Munich, and led to his conviction.

Demjanjuk, who was removed by U.S. immigration agents from his home in suburban Cleveland and deported in May 2009, questioned the evidence in the German case, saying the identity card was possibly a Soviet postwar forgery.

He reiterated his contention that after he was captured in Crimea in 1942, he was held prisoner until joining the Vlasov Army — a force of anti-communist Soviet POWs and others formed to fight with the Germans against the Soviets in the final months of the war.

In connection with the allegation, he was extradited to Israel from the U.S. in 1986 to stand trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, convicted and sentenced to death. But the Israeli Supreme Court in 1993 overturned the verdict on appeal, saying that evidence showed another Ukrainian man was actually “Ivan the Terrible,” and ordered him returned to the U.S.

Demjanjuk later said he lied about his wartime activities to avoid being sent back to Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union. Just to have admitted being in the Vlasov Army would also have been enough to have him barred from emigration to the U.S. or many other countries.

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