Plain Dealer, C.H. Pete Copeland/AP
John Demjanjuk

Another Delay in Deportation Case of Accused Nazi Guard

April 17, 2009 05:42 PM
by Rachel Balik
A German warrant demands the return of alleged concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk, but his family says the 89-year-old is too ill to comply with the deportation order.

Last Minute Decision to Keep Accused Nazi in US

John Demjanjuk, allegedly a guard at the various concentration camps during World War II, has been fighting deportation for years. Demjanjuk was carried out of his house in a wheelchair and was on his way to the airport when his son filed last-minute documentation with the U.S .Court of Appeals that he was too sick to travel. The court granted a temporary stay of deportation. Demjanjuk’s family claims that his health is so poor that putting him on trial in Germany would constitute torture. Meanwhile, various parties, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, dedicated to pursuing and prosecuting Nazis, have stated their determination to see Demjanjuk stand trial for his alleged crimes.

Background: The Long Road to Deportation

According to the Associated Press, in 1977, Demjanjuk was accused of being Ivan the Terrible, a “sadistic” guard from the Treblinka concentration camp. Demjanjuk’s U.S. citizenship was “revoked in 1981, restored in 1998 and revoked again in 2002” for falsifying citizenship documents.

In 1986, he was extradited to Israel and put on death row. In 1993, Israel released him after evidence indicated that he was not Ivan. New evidence led to charges that Demjanjuk was actually a different guard who served at three camps, including Sobibor, a camp in Poland where thousands died in the gas chambers. The Board of Immigration issued an order of deportation to Germany, Poland or the Ukraine in 2005, but Demjanjuk has continued to fight the order in court.

His appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected in May 2008. Although the decision on his deportation was final, he has remained in the United States because none of the three countries listed on the deportation order would agree to take him, Reuters reported.

In March 2009, the U.S. government contacted Germany for the necessary papers to deport Demjanjuk.

Reaction: Family is Relieved, Others Still Seek Justice

WNYC radio show “The Takeaway” interviewed David Marwell, director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and Jonathan Silvers, who is making a documentary called “Elusive Justice” about finding and prosecuting Nazis. The Demjanjuk case is currently the “longest-running deportation case” in the U.S. They argue alleged guards like Demjanjuk should be prosecuted because it is important to punish crimes against humanity, and that in addition to pursuing those who gave the orders, justice must be served against those who carried those orders out. There are few opportunities remaining to track down Nazis, as both the accusers and the surviving victims are dying off.

The radio piece also includes a recording of Demjanjuk’s granddaughter, pleading for her grandfather, insisting that he is an innocent man in extremely poor health who has been grossly mistreated.

Key Player: John Demjanjuk

John Demjanjuk was born Iwan Demjanjuk in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1920. He fought in the Soviet army against the Germans from 1940 until his capture in 1942, according to Ohio History Central. Demjanjuk claims that after spending two years in a POW camp he fought against the Soviets. However, he is currently charged with working as a Nazi concentration camp guard during this period.

A February 2002 article from The New York Times reports that a judge ruled to revoke Demjanjuk’s citizenship again because Demjanjuk had “knowingly misrepresented his past when he entered the United States in 1952.”  While Demjanjuk was not proven to be the infamous “Ivan the Terrible,” he was allegedly involved in Nazi concentration camp activities that contradicted the information presented on his citizenship application.

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