- Title: GERMANY: Nazi camp guard Demjanjuk to go on trial in Germany.
- Date: 1st December 2009
- Summary: JOURNALISTS OUTSIDE COURT VARIOUS NEWSPAPER SHOWING PHOTO OF DEMJANJUK SATELLITE TRUCKS MUNICH, GERMANY (NOVEMBER 29, 2009) (REUTERS) VARIOUS EXTERIORS OF STADELHEIM PRISON WHERE DEMJANJUK IS BEING HELD
- Embargoed: 16th December 2009 12:00
- Location: Germany
- Country: Germany
- Topics: War / Fighting
- Reuters ID: LVA4GWM7A705BIS5ROC0G77VN684
- Story Text: 89-year old Nazi camp guard John Demjanjuk goes on trial in the southern German city of Munich.
John Demjanjuk suffers from bouts of mental absence and will enter court in a wheelchair on Monday (November 20) to fight charges of helping to kill 27,900 Jews in the Holocaust, the 89-year-old's lawyer said.
His victims' families insist he must face justice.
In what is set to be Germany's last big Nazi-era war crimes trial, all eyes will be on the Ukrainian-born former U.S. auto worker who fought in the Red Army before being captured by the Nazis and recruited as a concentration camp guard.
German state prosecutors believe Demjanjuk, who was top of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of most-wanted war criminals, assisted in murders at Sobibor extermination camp in Poland where at least 250,000 Jews were murdered.
Demjanjuk, extradited in May from the United States after months of legal wrangling, denies involvement in the Holocaust.
Despite protestations from his family, medics have deemed Demjanjuk fit for trial but hearings, in Munich, will be limited to two 90-minute sessions per day due to his frail condition.
The trial is due to last until May and Demjanjuk could be sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The Wiesenthal Center, which says Demjanjuk pushed men, women and children into gas chambers, says the trial sends a message that justice can be done even after decades.
Many Germans, keen to draw a line under the Nazi past and forge a new role for their country, are resigned to the spectacle of the trial which has underscored Germany's patchy record on bringing its Nazi war criminals to justice.
The Institute for Contemporary History in Munich says West Germany has seen only about 6,600 convictions. About two thirds of those individuals got sentences of less than two years in jail. There are no reliable figures for Communist East Germany.
While acknowledging he was at other camps, Demjanjuk has denied he was in Sobibor, which prosecutors say was run by 20-30 SS members and 100-150 former Soviet prisoners of war.
In the gas chambers, Jews died within 30 minutes of a toxic mix of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, say prosecutors who argue Demjanjuk was at Sobibor for about six months in 1943.
Experts say the trial's most interesting aspect is whether prosecutors can prove Demjanjuk was party to specific crimes.
Demjanjuk was extradited from the United States to Israel in 1986, accused of being "Ivan the Terrible", a notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp. He was sentenced to death in 1988 but his conviction was overturned when new evidence showed another man was probably "Ivan".
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2011. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None