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Demjanjuk update: German law leaves him innocent after death

March 27th, 2012 4 comments

It’s not being publicized as much as his death, but John Demjanjuk’s vindication may have come as the result of his passing last week:

Munich state court spokeswoman Margarete Noetzel said this week that under German law, Demjanjuk is “still technically presumed innocent,” because he died before his final appeal could be heard, and “a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

Asked by Haaretz if that means there is no record of Demjanjuk’s conviction, Noetzel replied, “Yes, it means Mr. Demjanjuk has no criminal record.”

Since Demjanjuk’s conviction cannot be validated legally, due to his death, the conviction remains “merely as an historic fact,” Noetzel said.

Demjanjuk’s German lawyer, Dr. Ulrich Busch, told Haaretz that the Munich court published the statement regarding his client’s presumed innocence at his demand.

“After my client’s death, a false statement was distributed to the effect that Mr. Demjanjuk died as a convicted war criminal,” Busch told Haaretz in an exchange of e-mails. “The German and international media accepted this version and sullied my client, portraying him as one who led 28,000 people to the gas chambers.”

Busch said he demanded the legal authorities in Germany issue a clarification saying his client “died innocent and without conviction,” and that his conviction by a lower court “is invalid.

“The statement issued now clears my client’s name and restores his dignity,” he said.

“It’s a great consolation to his family, which is grieving over the loss of a husband and father, who died alone in far away Germany,” Busch added.

Good news for Demjanjuk’s family, as now they face a new hurdle in attempting to give him his final resting place in Ohio:

Efraim Zuroff, who leads the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, believes funeral in his adopted hometown would turn into a spectacle

He said: ‘I have no doubt that a funeral in Seven Hills would turn into a demonstration of solidarity and support for Demjanjuk, who’s the last person on earth who deserves any sympathy, frankly.’

Unfortunately for German law, the verdict remains and leaves the new and dangerous precedent:

The Demjanjuk judgment set a major precedent as this was the first time a German court convicted someone solely on the basis of serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of being involved in a specific killing

Sixty years after the end of World War II, Demjanjuk was one of a handful of living Nazi prison camp guards who can still be brought to trial. After years of reluctance, German authorities are now racing to bring the others to trial.

The so-called ‘evidence’ of him being a camp guard was being appealed, as even an FBI agent concluded the only piece of evidence (which came from the KGB of all places) was a fake. Will the new precedent be used to prosecute top-ranking Nazi officials? No – many of them were exonerated and even participated in the new government of a ‘free’ Germany:

A total of 25 cabinet ministers, one president and one chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany — as postwar Germany is officially known — had been members of Nazi organizations

For years, the notion that partisans of the Nazi regimes were able to manipulate their way into the top levels of government in the young federal republic, and that former Nazi Party members set the tone in a country governed by the postwar constitution in the 1950s and 60s has been a subject for historians.

Just how brown — the color most associated with the Nazis — were the first years of postwar West Germany?

 

 

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

March 17th, 2012 No comments

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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Demjanjuk could be tried next in Bavaria

July 18th, 2011 No comments

After Germany denied extradition due to incomplete, missing crucial information regarding details of the deaths of Spanish citizens and Demjanjuk’s involvement in the deaths, it looks like Bavaria will be the next country accusing Demjanjuk of war crimes:

The new complaint accuses Demjanjuk of 4,400 additional counts of accessory to murder for the time when he allegedly guarded the Flossenbuerg concentration camp in Bavaria.

Even though thousands died or were killed in Flossenbuerg, its entire purpose was not extermination like Sobibor, Auschwitz or the other Nazi death camps.

But in the new complaint filed by Cornelius Nestler, who represented the families of Sobibor victims at the Demjanjuk trial as co-plaintiffs, the Cologne-based attorney argues there should be no distinction made between concentration camps and death camps.

"Legally, it doesn’t make a difference if the purpose is to murder everybody there, or if the purpose is to murder a third of the people there," he told The Associated Press. "It’s still murder."

The complaint was also filed against Alex Nagorny, who testified during the Demjanjuk trial that they were both guards at Flossenbuerg together and then had lived together in Germany after the war.

When asked to identify Demjanjuk, however, Nagorny told the court the man on trial bore "no resemblance" to the Demjanjuk that he knew.

Nestler, who filed his complaint jointly with Thomas Walther, a former federal prosecutor who led the investigation that prompted Germany to put Demjanjuk on trial, said the purpose is not to heap more jail time on one person, but to open the door to other possible convictions.

Read the article

Demjanjuk is currently released awaiting awaiting appeal:

The 91-year-old retired Ohio autoworker was convicted in May of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder after a Munich court found that the evidence showed he was a guard during the war the Nazis’ Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland.

The precedent-setting case was the first time someone was convicted in Germany on evidence of being only a guard, without evidence of a specific killing.

The court ruled that guarding a death camp meant, in legal terms, that Demjanjuk was an accessory to the murder of the people who were killed in the camp’s gas chambers even if it could not be proven that he was directly involved in the extermination process.

Certainly no stranger to appeals, Demjanjuk was freed on appeal by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1993 while on death row, concluding he was not “Ivan the Terrible” in Treblinka.

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‘Demjanjuk Verdict is a ‘Farce’’ – his Israeli defence lawyer

May 19th, 2011 No comments

Demjanjuk’s Israeli defence attorney from his successful acquittal of charges in Treblinka has come out in the press, protesting the verdict:

Israeli Attorney Yoram Sheftel responded on Thursday to the conviction and sentence of John Demjanjuk in Munich.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew website, Sheftel said that the trial was distorted and unreal. “There was a shameful farce here,” he said. “Certainly the German court did not believe its own ruling.”

“There is no precedent in the 20th century in any legal system,” Sheftel said, “that a person who was convicted of helping to murder 28,000 people is released to his home immediately after his conviction and not sent to prison.”

Sheftel had served as Demjanjuk’s attorney when he was put on trial in Israel in the late 1980s, to face charges that he was the brutal Nazi-era Treblinka camp guard known as “Ivan the Terrible.”

Demjanjuk was convicted and sentenced to death in 1988, but appealed the decision and the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the death sentence in 1993, saying that new evidence from the collapsed Soviet Union introduced doubt that Demjanjuk was indeed Ivan the Terrible.

Sheftel said that he is convinced that the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling regarding Demjanjuk was the true verdict he deserved.

“Nothing has changed since then,” he said. “Even during the trial in Germany, there was not one person who testified that Demjanjuk was Ivan from Sobibor, by virtue that he was seen there, and as such the conviction is a farce.”

Read the rest of the article, thanks to UkeMonde for pointing that out on his site

Yoram Sheftel was a brave man who defied Israeli society that villified him and his client in search for the truth that led to the acquittal of Demjanjuk as ‘Ivan the Terrible’. During the trial Sheftel became ‘the most hated man in Israel’, had his life threatened multiple times and endured an acid attack to the face. You can read a good summary of Demjanjuk’s trial in Germany here, including the fact there was no evidence of him committing a specific crime, with only an ID card produced by the KGB which the FBI has considered a fake.

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Demjanjuk sentenced to 5 year jail term in Germany, appeals decision (Updated)

May 12th, 2011 No comments

Sad news out of Germany as Demjanjuk has been sentenced to 5 years in prison for being an alleged ‘Nazi guard’ while being a Red Army POW, a stark contrast to the many high-ranking German Nazis who were never brought to trial by their own government:

A court in Germany has found John Demjanjuk guilty of helping kill nearly 28,000 Jews in a Nazi concentration camp.

The 91-year-old was sentenced to five years in prison by a Munich court on Thursday as an accessory to mass murder during his time as a guard at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland.

Earlier in the day Demjanjuk rejected an offer to make a final plea as 18-month trial came to a close.

Asked by judges whether he wanted to say any final words, Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, speaking through an interpreter, replied: “No”.

The judges also rejected requests by the defence to seek more evidence in the trial.

 

New German precedence – no proof of crime needed

There was no evidence that Demjanjuk committed a specific crime. The prosecution was based on the theory that if Demjanjuk was at the camp, he was a participant in the killing — the first time such a legal argument has been made in German courts.

Thomas Walther, who led the investigation that prompted Germany to prosecute Demjanjuk, said before the verdict that other low-ranking Nazi helpers could now face prosecution.

“It could be very soon that more are brought to the table,” he said. “This case is a door-opener.”

Read the rest of the article

 

Same evidence from prior trials – already proved forgery by USSR

Much of the case for the prosecution had rested on whether an identity card, 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 accused.

The defence insisted it was a fake.

This is the same ID the FBI has scrutinized as being fabricated by the Soviet Union, but their testimony was not accepted into the trial:

The newly declassified FBI field office report, obtained by The Associated Press, casts doubt on the authenticity of a Nazi ID card that is the key piece of evidence in allegations that Demjanjuk served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland.

The FBI agents argued that the Soviets had an interest in faking the documents as part of a campaign to smear anti-communist emigres. Those conclusions contradict the findings of another branch of the Department of Justice, the Office of Special Investigations, or OSI, which was in charge of the overall Demjanjuk probe.

It is unclear whether prosecutors in the U.S. and Israel knew about it.

The March 4, 1985, report, on FBI letterhead and marked “SECRET,” says the Cleveland office’s investigation “strongly indicated” a Soviet scheme to discredit “prominent emigre dissidents speaking out publicly and/or leading emigre groups in opposition to the Soviet leadership in the USSR.”

The defense has argued throughout the trial that the ID card is a clever fake, noting that Demjanjuk’s height and eye color don’t match and alleging there are indications the photograph was taken from old identity papers and glued to the card.

The OSI in the past has been accused of withholding evidence that could have cleared Demjanjuk.

In a 1993 review of the American denaturalization hearing that led to his extradition, a federal U.S. appeals panel concluded that the OSI engaged in “prosecutorial misconduct that seriously misled the court.”

A Department of Justice report from 2008 made public last November said the OSI’s handling of the Demjanjuk case was “the greatest mistake it ever made.”

The FBI report accuses the Soviets of anonymously feeding names of emigres to the United States as suspected Nazis. The OSI would then ask the Soviet Union for evidence from captured Nazi records, and “the KGB produces a record purporting to tie the accused with the commission of Nazi atrocities,” it said.

“In court, the KGB officer thereupon ‘shows’ the documents to the judge but does not permit the documents to be presented in evidence or to be otherwise copied,” it adds.

Read the rest of the article

Some background on this case

Demjanjuk was accused of working for six months at the Sobibor extermination camp in occupied Poland in 1943, during which time 27,900 Jews were gassed to death there.

The prosecution argued that if he worked as a camp guard, by definition, he was guilty of helping to kill all the Jews sent there at the time.

Demjanjuk said he fought in the Red Army before being captured by the Germans in 1942, and said that although he was recruited as a camp guard, he was not placed at Sobibor.

He said he remained a prisoner-of-war until the end of 1945, and later emigrated to the United States where he married and had a family.

Demjanjuk served nearly eight years in an Israeli prison, five of them on death row after being found guilty in the 1980s of serving as a guard in another death camp – Treblinka – where he went by the name “Ivan the Terrible”.

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

Read the rest of the article

 

The verdict is not final, as it is being appealed:

A German court has ordered John Demjanjuk released pending an appeal of his conviction as an accessory to murder at a Nazi death camp.

Presiding Judge Ralph Alt made the announcement as he wrapped up his verdict Thursday in the 91-year-old’s trial. It could take six months or more for an appeal verdict to come.

The Wisenthal Centre which has been behind all of Demjanjuk’s prosecution failed to convict him as Ivan The Terrible in Treblinka in the 1980′s. During that trail the Centre was already preparing for this Sobibor case, and if the appeal comes through, the next stop in this witch hunt is already planned in Spain for Flossenburg.

Update: Here’s a video of Demjanjuk’s son, John Jr.:


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