Demjanjuk to be tried in Germany

By Toby Axelrod, May 14, 2009

One of the last major Nazi war crimes trials is within sight, with the arrival of accused war criminal Ivan Demjanjuk in Germany on Tuesday.

Demjanjuk, 89, is accused of having been a guard at the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland from March to September 1943, and of having been involved in the murder of at least 29,000 Jews.

Munich prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for him in March. His appeal to the US Supreme Court failed, clearing the way for his deportation. Demjanjuk was whisked away from his home near Cleveland, Ohio, in an ambulance on Monday night. He arrived in Munich on Tuesday morning on a charter flight. He was to be formally arraigned and taken to the Stadelheim prison to await trial.

Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the courts were now in a “race against time”.

Now that Demjanjuk was in Germany, “all possible legal measures must be taken to bring him to court as quickly as possible.

“Any Nazi war criminals who may still be alive should take note that there can be no mercy for them, however old they are. They must be held responsible for their inhumane deeds because there is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity.”

Demjanjuk, who contests the charges, has lived in the US since 1952.

He was accused in the early 1980s of being a guard at the Treblinka death camp, but was released from jail in Israel after seven years, escaping a death penalty after another Ukrainian was identified as the guard in question.

The US Justice Department later reported that Demjanjuk was suspected of having been a guard at Sobibor and was liable for deportation because his US citizenship had been granted based on false information. His citizenship was revoked in 2002 and deportation was approved in 2005.

Last updated: 9:42am, May 14 2009