The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Demjanjuk Case - Factual and Legal Details (Part 1 of 2)
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Sobibor,Treblinka,Demjanjuk

Archive/File: holocaust/poland/reinhard/demjanjuk demjanjuk.s1
Last-Modified: 1994/01/07

                   Israel Information Service Gopher
               Director: Chaim Shacham, First Secretary
 Information Division              Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem
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                                                         JULY 28, 1993

                       THE DEMJANJUK CASE 

                   FACTUAL AND LEGAL DETAILS 

The following pages present a review, outlining in broad strokes
the chain of events of what eventually became the legal case of the
State of Israel versus Ivan Demjanjuk.

The review presents the broader view of the history of the case
and has no pretensions to giving an exhaustive account of or even
encompassing the sea of factual and legal issues dealt with in the
past 15 years in various courts of law in the United States and

                             (1975 - 1986) 

1.  In October 1975, there came into the possession of certain members
    of the U.S.  Senate a list of Nazi war criminals living -- so the
    document alleged -- in the U.S.  The list gave the suspects' names
    and personal particulars, in most cases also stating what they had
    done during World War II.

    The information listed evidently emanated from material collated
    in the Soviet Union, consisting of authentic German documents
    captured by the Red Army when occupying territories under Nazi
    control in the summer of 1944.

    One of the names appearing on the list was that of John Ivan
    Demjanjuk -- a U.S.  resident since 1951 and a citizen of
    Cleveland, Ohio since 1958.

2.  As listed, Demjanjuk (born April 3, 1920 in the Ukraine) was a
    soldier in the Red Army who, falling into German captivity,
    volunteered for service in the S.S, underwent training and
    preparation at the S.S.  training camp in the township of
    Trawniki, Poland, where he served from March 1943 as an S.S.
    Wachman at the Sobibor death camp, and later at the Floenbuerg
    concentration camp.  ('S.S.  Wachman' was the Nazi code name for
    the non-German S.S.  hobnail-booted soldiers who aided the Germans
    in exterminating the Jews throughout the war years.  The Wachmans
    actually fulfilled many functions in the process of realization of
    the 'final solution': commencing with the physical expulsion of
    Jews from their ghetto homes during 'actions', through packing
    them into cattle-trucks at the 'umschlagplatz', escorting and
    guarding them on the trains while shooting escapees, to mass
    executions, in which victims were forced into gas chambers at the
    death camps).

3.  Nothing in U.S.  statute provided for preferment of criminal
    charges for war crimes against suspects of Demjanjuk's kind.  The
    only way the State could take any legal action against him at all
    was by conducting a trial, starting with the filing of a complaint
    on grounds of obtaining citizenship on false pretenses, and ending
    with stripping the defendant of his citizenship.  The fraud
    consisted of having concealed past actions that, had the
    authorities known of in real time, would not have granted him an
    entry visa to the United States, much less American citizenship.

    Once he was denaturalized, the authorities had the option of
    initiating deportation proceedings against the defendant (if he
    did not preempt them by emigrating from the United States of his
    own volition) and/or proceedings for extraditing him to another

4.  Once in possession of the list, some of the aforesaid senators
    hastened to forward it to the legal instance in charge at that
    time of filing lawsuits for the negation of citizenship (I.N.S.)
    -- a section in the U.S.  Justice Department affiliated to the
    Department of Immigration and Naturalization.  After a while, an
    analysis of the list was begun along with an initial research on
    the data it presented.

5.  The preliminary I.N.S study of the Demjanjuk case focused on his
    immigration and naturalization dossier dating from the fifties.
    Among the papers in this file were forms he had filled out,
    applications he had submitted, and summations of interviews
    conducted with him by U.S immigration officers in Germany, during
    the years 1947-1951 when, as a displaced persons camp inmate, he
    expressed the wish to immigrate to the United States.

    The said examination revealed that in one of the more important of
    these forms, dated March 4, 1948, where he was required to give
    particulars of members of his family and describe his own doings
    during the war, Demjanjuk himself warranted in writing that during
    and before the war he was a 'farmer in Poland in a settlement
    called Sobibor'.  (Demjanjuk signed his name to this form).

6.  Cross-referencing between the information shown on the list
    (deriving, it will be recalled, from the U.S.S.R.), whereby
    Demjanjuk served with the S.S.  as a Wachman at the Sobibor death
    camp and Demjanjuk's own entries on the form he had himself signed
    in Germany, stating that he was in fact at a place called
    'Sobibor' -- eventually assumed great significance.

7.  A.  The investigative activities of the I.N.S.  at that time
    (1976), insofar as they related to nazi criminals, went on to
    target other suspects named by the same list in connection with
    incriminating information or indications of it.  Thus for example,
    they researched the past of another criminal, Fyodor Federenko --
    who, the list alleged, had been an S.S.  Wachman at the Treblinka
    death camp in Poland, and later at the Stutthof concentration camp

    B.  As regards both Demjanjuk and Federenko, the I.N.S.  decided
    that apart from interrogating them and their families, an attempt
    would be made to locate witnesses in various parts of the world
    who might remember them and what they did during the war, in
    addition to any possible documentary evidence yielding proof of
    their crimes.

    C.  The I.N.S.  investigative effort was directed, inter alia,
    towards Israel.  Operating in Israel at that time was a police
    unit for the investigation of nazi crimes (INC), successor to the
    '06 Bureau' founded as part of the preparations for the trial of
    Adolf Eichmann.

    D.  Since the Eichmann trial, INC had undertaken numerous
    investigations -- most of them pursuant to official applications
    by investigatory authorities in various parts of the world.
    Evidence collected by the unit in Israel served as proof of nazi
    crimes in court cases conducted in various countries from time to

    E.  On February 20, 1976, I.N.S.  sent INC a memorandum naming
    certain Ukrainians who were suspected of involvement in
    persecution and acts of cruelty towards people during the war, in
    the service of Nazi Germany.  Ivan Demjanjuk and Fiodor Federenko
    were named in the memorandum as having operated in the Sobibor
    death camp (Demjanjuk) and Treblinka (Federenko).  (This after
    undergoing training at the S.S.  training camp in Trawniki).

    INC was asked to make an effort to ascertain whether available
    witnesses such as eye witnesses, able to supply information on any
    one of the suspects could be found in Israel.

    F.  Annexed to the memoranda were snapshots (of the passport
    photograph variety) of the suspects.  These were to be shown to
    potential witnesses while being debriefed, and statements were to
    be taken from them on the subject.  The photographs were mostly
    taken from immigration dossiers in the United States, proximity to
    real time being two years to eight years after the event.

8.  A.  In 1976 the INC called in for questioning a number of Israeli
    citizens listed as having been rescued from the inferno of
    Treblinka or Sobibor.

    B.  Most of these citizens, survivors of Treblinka, summoned for
    questioning due to the possibility of their having been acquainted
    with and able to recognize the nazi criminal Federenko - pointed
    in the course of their interrogation, when shown all of the
    photographs or part of them, to the photograph of Demjanjuk as of
    that of a Wachman they knew from Treblinka and remembered as
    'Ivan' who operated the gas chambers there.  (Some recalled that
    this individual was known as 'Ivan the Terrible' because of his
    notorious cruelty).  Some on this occasion also identified the
    photograph of Federenko whom they knew as a ranking Wachman in
    Treblinka and of whom they also reported remembered details of his
    crimes there.

    C.  A female INC interrogator (a lawyer by profession) who was
    coordinating investigations concerning both Federenko and
    Demjanjuk, responded with surprise to the identification of
    Demjanjuk as a criminal from Treblinka.  She did all she could to
    suggest to the interrogees the possibility that they might be
    mistaken, if only by reason of the fact that according to the
    information in the I.N.S.  memorandum, Demjanjuk was an S.S.
    Wachman at the Sobibor camp; but to no avail.  The interrogees
    stuck to their spontaneous identification, insistently repeating
    that this was a snapshot of 'Ivan the Terrible' of Treblinka.

    D.  All depositions taken from these interrogees, concerning both
    Federenko and Demjanjuk, were forwarded that same year (1976) to
    the I.N.S.  for its consideration.

9.  A.  Denaturalization proceedings in the United States are
    inherently civil proceedings and accordingly subject to civil
    procedure laws and their derivative rules.  In the course of these
    proceedings an exchange of correspondence took place in the
    Demjanjuk file, between them and the Court.  Pleadings were
    written, interrogatories were exchanged, discovery of documents
    was instituted, depositions were taken in preliminary
    interrogations, and thus thousands more pages accumulated in the
    file before court hearings began.

    B.  In the summer of 1977, the I.N.S.  instituted denaturalization
    proceedings against Federenko and Demjanjuk -- in respect of
    crimes committed during by them during World War II, as S.S.
    Wachmans.  The action against Federenko was brought in Miami,
    Florida, and that against Demjanjuk in Cleveland, Ohio.

    C.  Demjanjuk was cited as having concealed acts of murder and
    abuse of thousands of persons at the Treblinka death camp (as
    operator of th chambers) and at Sobibor (after having trained for
    the job at the S.S.  training camp at Trawniki); and consequently
    of having fraudulently obtained U.S.  citizenship.

10.  A.  Federenko's trial commenced as early as 1978, ended in 1979
    with his denaturalization (Federenko admitted to having been a
    Wachman at Treblinka, thereby confirming the camp survivors'
    identification of him.  In his defense, however, he pleaded that
    he had not brought to the ground a single hair of the heads of the
    Jews at that camp, and that evidence against him was accordingly
    untrue.  The District Court upheld the defense pleadings,
    dismissing the action against him; but on appeal, his defense was
    set aside and he was stripped of his U.S.  citizenship.

    The commencement of Demjanjuk's trial, by contrast, was long
    delayed, and it was not until February 10, 1981 that the parties
    and the court were satisfied that the case was ripe for evidence
    to begin to be heard.

    B.  One of the reasons for the delay was that in 1979, after a
    series of congressional debates, (initiated by congresswoman
    Elizabeth Holtzman, a jurist) there was formed in the criminal
    division of the U.S.  Department of Justice, a body given the
    title of 'Office of Special Investigations' (O.S.I.).  The O.S.I.
    was mandated to do just one job -- to identify nazi criminals
    living in the United States, to investigate them, collect evidence
    against them, bring them to trial, strip them of their U.S.
    citizenship and deport or extradite them.  To do this job, the
    O.S.I.  assembled a team of jurists, attorneys-at-law, historians,
    researchers and service personnel; and was allocated an initial
    budget of U.S.$ 1.3 million.

    C.  With the creation of the O.S.I.  (over the course of 1979) and
    upon completion of its initial formation stages, the I.N.S.
    transferred handling of the entire 'nazi issue' to the O.S.I.

    D.  The Demjanjuk investigation was then in full swing, and his
    file was examined by the newly created O.S.I.  Thus it was not
    until February 1981 that the case crystallized and the Demjanjuk
    trial commenced in Cleveland, Ohio.

13.  Demjanjuk was stripped of his U.S.  citizenship by Federal Court
    Judge Frank Batisti of the northern district of Ohio, Cleveland,
    on June 25, 1981.  In a lengthy, reasoned decision, the judge
    reviewed the historical background of relevant events, the
    evidence advanced by the prosecution and the defense's counter
    pleadings, the evidence of the counsel for the defense and its
    pleadings and the weight they carried, and reached the conclusion
    that Demjanjuk had deceived the Court, that the version of the
    witnesses for the prosecution was the truth, and that Demjanjuk
    had obtained his citizenship under false pretenses, in as much as
    he had concealed the fact of his service with the S.S.  in
    Treblinka and Trawniki.  (The Court notes that since it had
    established findings regarding Treblinka and Trawniki, which
    sufficed for the defendant's denaturalization, it had not gone
    into the details of Demjanjuk's service with the S.S.  at the
    Sobibor death camp). 

14. A.  Following Judge Batisti's decision between the years
    1981-1986 (when Demjanjuk was physically extradited to Israel),
    various legal proceedings took place in the United States
    concerning him.

    B.  Altogether, the various aspects of the subject were studied in
    the United States before ten legal instances which heard
    pleadings, reexamined evidence and studied factual and legal
    aspects of the case.  Time and again the Courts reached the
    conclusion that Demjanjuk was a nazi war criminal against whom
    there existed evidence founded on crimes committed by him in the
    service of the S.S.  in general and in the Treblinka camp in
    particular.  It was accordingly decided that his denaturalization
    was just and his deportation and extradition to Israel based on
    solid evidence.

15.  A.  On February 26, 1986, Demjanjuk was brought to Israel
    accompanied by two U.S.  government Marshals.  This concluded a
    five-year chapter that had commenced with contacts between the
    U.S.  government and Israel on the issue of the extradition of
    nazi criminals living in the United States and ended with
    Demjanjuk's extradition.

                     CHAPTER TWO - THE TRIAL 
                          (1986 - 1988) 

1.  Demjanjuk's trial before the special tribunal (Supreme Court Judge
    Dov Levin, and Jerusalem District Court Judges Zvi Tal and Dahlia
    Dorner) was opened with the reading out session on November 26,
    1986.  For practical purposes, the hearings commenced only on
    February 16, 1987 and this primarily in response by the Court to
    applications for postponement filed by the defense, to enable it
    to prepare properly for the trial.

2.  Demjanjuk was represented by Advocates Mark O'Connor and John Gil
    (U.S.A.) who were authorized by the Minister of Justice to
    represent him in Israel, and by the Israeli lawyer, Yoram Sheftel.
    At a later stage of the trial, the defense was joined by Adv.
    Paul Chumak (Canada).  (Adv.  O'Connor was dismissed toward the
    end of the hearing of the evidence for the prosecution and before
    the hearing of the evidence for the defense began).

3.  A.  The entire trial took place in the Binyanei Ha'uma, Jerusalem,
    where an appropriate infrastructure was set up, which would meet
    the complex needs of the conduct of this trial.  In fact,
    everything involved in the conduct of the trial was assembled in
    one building: the courtroom, the judges' chambers, Demjanjuk's
    detention room where he also met with his attorneys, the offices
    of the prosecution and the defense, the interpreters' offices and
    translation rooms.  Offices in which the recorded minutes could be
    taken down and typed simultaneously in Hebrew and in English.
    Offices for the security and guard services, telephone and
    facsimile services, and communication services for the general
    public and the press and more.

    B.  One of the considerations that tipped the balance in favor of
    exposing the entire course of the trial to the public in Israel
    and the rest of the world was the loudly voiced complaints as to
    the inability of the judiciary system in Israel to conduct a trial
    properly against one suspected of nazi crimes, since this was the
    'victims' state'.  The accessibility of the judiciary hearings as
    stated enabled anyone who wished to follow the course of the

    C.  Another important reason adduced as to why the trial should be
    held in the Binyanei Ha'uma, was the unprecedented interest of the
    media and the general public at home and abroad in this trial.
    This interest led the parties concerned to conclude that the 'open
    court' principle would be duly put into practice at this trial,
    only if everyone who so wished could be part of the public in
    attendance in the courtroom or could watch the proceedings through
    the media.

4.  A.  The general framework of the conduct of the case in Israel was
    dictated in practice long before Demjanjuk was brought to trial.
    This by the very fact that the State of Israel's application for
    extradition was based on the testimony of the identification
    witnesses from Treblinka as given to INC as early as 1976 and 1979
    and as confirmed either in evidence (in the United States) or in
    depositions (in Israel) in the years that followed.  It thus
    appeared that the fulcrum of this case would stabilize around
    Demjanjuk's crimes at Treblinka and the evidence proving those
    deeds of his would rest on the testimony of the identification
    witnesses, as described.  In practise, the case proceeded along
    three channels of evidence, whose accumulation was intended to
    prove (the acts) imputed to Demjanjuk in the indictment:
    membership in the S.S., training at the camp at Trawniki, crimes
    at the Treblinka death camp as operator of the gas chambers there
    and at the Sobibor death camp.

    B.  The defense claimed all along that Demjanjuk had fallen into
    German captivity where he remained throughout the war, that he
    never volunteered to serve with the S.S.  and that he was
    therefore not a member of the killing team at the camps of
    Treblinka and Sobibor or an operator of the gas chambers -- as
    alleged in the indictment.

5.  A.  The court sittings were held continuously -- morning and
    afternoon on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

    B.  The inaugural session, on February 16, 1987, was dedicated to
    the hearing of all questions relating to the competence of the
    State of Israel to judge Demjanjuk (general competence and
    specific competence in light of the laws of Israel and the United
    States and the inter- state treaty), written summations were
    presented (including pleadings, appendices and judgments) and oral
    pleadings were heard.  After the Court had given its decision
    whereby the indictment and the offenses imputed to Demjanjuk were
    consistent with the wording of the extradition treaty and the
    intention of the U.S.  authorities and that the Court was
    competent to judge him, the opening arguments of the prosecution
    were heard and the recital of the evidence for the prosecution

6.  Its first twenty-one sessions (February 1 through March 20, 1987)
    were dedicated to the issue of Demjanjuk's crimes at the Treblinka
    death camp.  The prosecution also put on the witness stand those
    survivors of Treblinka who had pointed to the photograph of
    Demjanjuk as the man they remembered as operating the gas chambers
    at the camp.  Likewise, written evidence was submitted and the
    testimony was heard of the police interrogators who had conducted
    the investigation in which the aforesaid identification was made
    back in 1976.

7.  The months April to July 1987 were devoted to the hearing of
    testimony and the submission of evidence on the other two central

    A.  Proof of Demjanjuk's being an S.S.  man who had volunteered to
        serve at Trawniki and Sobibor.

    B.  Refutation of the alibi alleged by Demjanjuk.

8.  As to Demjanjuk's enlisting in the S.S., his preparation and
    training at Trawninki and his service as a member of the killing
    team at the Sobibor camp -- the 'Trawniki certificate' constituted
    a central axis of evidence.  The 'Trawniki certificate' is an
    original nazi certificate of Demjanjuk's containing his portrait
    photograph, his personal particulars, his S.S.  service number
    (1393) and a record of his being posted to two places where he
    served during the war period -- Okshov and the Sobibor death camp.

    The certificate was sent to Israel from the U.S.S.R., having been
    located there in an archives in which were kept nazi documents
    captured by the Red Army in the summer of 1944 and thereafter.

    Contrary to the approach which governed the proceedings in the
    United States, the certificate was perceived by the Prosecution in
    Israel as a most important piece of evidence in proving
    Demjanjuk's guilt from both the factual and the legal point of

    First, the prosecution was of the opinion that this was
    preponderant unambiguous evidence of Demjanjuk's being an S.S.
    soldier, who underwent training and preparation at the S.S.  camp
    at Trawninki, which is to say that it determines his general
    status.  Not an innocent man as he pleaded but a nazi criminal of
    the worst kind.

    Second, the certificate enables the determination to be made that
    Demjanjuk was one of a limited number of Wachmans chosen to serve
    as murderers at the death camps -- particularly Sobibor on March
    27, 1943.  Out of several million Russian prisoners of war, held
    at the POW camps of nazi Germany, only about 5,000 volunteered to
    serve the S.S.  in various capacities.  Of these, serving at camps
    whose sole purpose was nothing but killing (as distinct from
    concentration camps or forced labor camps) -- about 500 Wachmans
    only.  This determination has a direct bearing on Demjanjuk's
    crimes.  And indirectly the Prosecution alleged, it also placed
    him nearer Treblinka.  A not less important incidental result was
    the absolute refutation of the alibi plea based on the
    certificate, since it was not possible to be a POW in detention,
    and an S.S.  man holding such a certificate at one and the same

    This view of matters prompted the prosecution to invest great
    efforts, so that the proof of the veracity of the certificate,
    with all that that implied, would be completely unbreachable.
    What made the point even sharper was the fact that since the case
    began to be conducted in the United states and all along the way
    the main plea of the defense was that the certificate was a KGB
    forgery, that no such certificates were ever issued to Wachmans,
    and that this one had been created from scratch and sent to the
    United States in order to incriminate Demjanjuk in the eyes of the
    U.S.  authorities.

    Accordingly the need to prove the bona fides of the document from
    every possible aspect led the prosecution to present in court
    three sets of evidence on the subject.

    - An historical set: which was analysed with the aid of experts
    from Germany having a perspective and historical expertise on the
    one hand and German witnesses having served with the S.S.  at
    Trawniki in the relevant years on the other hand -- everything
    written on the certificate, including stamps, signtures, ranks
    etc., so as to prove that they were consistent with the facts as
    they had actually been in real time.

    - A forensic set: proved with the aid of local and foreign experts
    the authenticity of each element found on the certificate and
    which was verifiable: either by analyzing the document and the
    signatures and examining them by way of document comparison, or by
    chemical and other analyses of the paper on which the certificate
    was written, fountain pen ink, typewriter ribbon ink, the ink of
    the stamps on the certificate, the printed lettering, the typed
    lettering, the photographic paper of Demjanjuk's photograph on the
    certificate, glue and other stains on it, marks of attrition,
    grooves, creases, perforations etc.

    - Attributing the certificate to Demjanjuk: an application to
    prove that writing and entries on the certificate correspond to
    his personal particulars, including a comparative anthropological
    analysis of his facial features, as appearing on the passport
    photograph thereon -- with other known passport photographs of

    Also testifying was a Prison Service physician Dr.  Zigelbaum, as
    regards two important medical details: the location of a scar on
    Demjanjuk's back -- a detail appearing in the German entries on
    the Trawniki certificate as a special identifying mark of the
    bearer of the certificate and thereby imparting to the certificate
    yet another touch of authenticity.  A scar was likewise found
    under Demjanjuk's left armpit -- remaining from the S.S.  tattoo
    that existed there in the past, and which was removed by Demjanjuk
    after the war, by reason of being so incriminating.

9.  To the matter of the alibi: Apart from the need to prove that
    Demjanjuk lied in his contradictory versions regarding his alibi,
    expert witnesses were called to prove the implausibility of his
    version under the conditions and circumstances he described, in
    view of the knowhow existing from an historic point of view.  Here
    numerous documents submitted in evidence were combined with the
    testimony of expert witnesses being military historians and
    researchers specializing in the matters under review.

(Continued in Part 2: demjanjuk.s1-2)

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