Demjanjuk arrives at German prison
John Demjanjuk, the suspected Nazi death camp guard deported from the U.S. to face accusations of being accessory to the murder of 29,000 Jews and others, was transferred to a German prison Tuesday, AP reported.
The retired Ohio autoworker arrived at Munich's airport from Cleveland at about 9:15 a.m. (0715 GMT) aboard a private jet. The plane taxied directly into a hangar, accompanied by police vehicles and an ambulance.
From there he was transported by ambulance, under police escort, to a special medical unit of the Stadelheim prison, where the 89-year-old Demjanjuk, who is allegedly in poor health, will be examined by a doctor and formally arrested.
If he is found fit to stand trial, it could bring to an end a more than three-decade saga of efforts to prosecute the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, who says he was a Red Army soldier, spent the war as a Nazi POW and never hurt anyone.
But Nazi-era documents obtained by U.S. justice authorities and shared with German prosecutors suggest otherwise. They include a photo ID identifying Demjanjuk as a guard at the Sobibor death camp and saying he was trained at an SS facility for Nazi guards at Trawniki. Both sites were in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Reached at his office in Jerusalem, Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, praised U.S. and German authorities for bringing Demjanjuk in.
"I think this is an extremely important day for justice and the fact that Demjanjuk, who actively participated in the mass murder of 29,000 Jews at Sobibor, will be put to trial is of great significance and reinforces the message that the passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the murders," he said.
Yet, the key to Demjanjuk's fate may lie not with the evidence but rather with a German court's decision about whether he is medically fit to stand trial. In any case, Demjanjuk, who has been without a country since the U.S. stripped him of his citizenship in 2002, is likely to spend the rest of his life here.
Germany's main Jewish leader urged authorities to act quickly.
"It is a race against time," Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor, said in a statement.
"For survivors of the Shoa it is intolerable to watch how a suspected Nazi war criminal, who knew no mercy for his victims, seeks sympathy and compares his deportation to torture."
Demjanjuk insists he is innocent and bitterly fought his deportation for nearly four years.
His case is a clear example of how difficult it has become to bring alleged Nazi war criminals to trial more than six decades since the end of World War II.
One of Demjanjuk's German lawyers, Guenther Maull, told AP Television News on Monday that at Stadelheim, a judge will read a 21-page arrest warrant to him. Demjanjuk will have the opportunity to respond, but is not expected to say anything.
"I will put pressure on him not to say anything, because we need to talk in peace first and digest everything that is in the arrest warrant," Maull said.
A doctor will examine Demjanjuk and decide whether he should remain at Stadelheim or be sent to an area hospital.
Dramatic photos last month showed Demjanjuk (pronounced dem-YAHN'-yuk) wincing in apparent pain as he was removed by immigration agents from his home in Seven Hills, Ohio, in an earlier attempt to deport him to Germany. However, images taken only days earlier and released by the U.S. government showed him entering his car unaided outside a medical office.
Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said Monday that his father is dying of leukemic bone marrow disease and had maintained that he would not survive a trans-Atlantic flight.
The deportation came four days after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider Demjanjuk's request to block deportation.
Among the documents obtained by the Munich prosecutors is an SS identity card that features a photo of a young, round-faced Demjanjuk along with his height and weight, and says he worked at Sobibor.
German prosecutors also have a transfer roster that lists Demjanjuk by his name and birthday and also says he was at Sobibor, and statements from former guards who remembered him being there.
The case dates to 1977 when the Justice Department moved to revoke Demjanjuk's U.S. citizenship, alleging he hid his past as a Nazi death camp guard.
Demjanjuk had been tried in Israel after accusations surfaced that he was the notorious "Ivan the Terrible" at the Treblinka death camp in Poland. He was found guilty in 1988 of war crimes and crimes against humanity but the conviction was overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court.
A U.S. judge revoked his citizenship in 2002 based on U.S. Justice Department evidence showing he concealed his service at Sobibor and other Nazi-run death and forced-labor camps.
An immigration judge ruled in 2005 he could be deported to Germany, Poland or Ukraine. Munich prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for him in March.