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Shofar FTP Archive File: people/d/demjanjuk.john/israeli-data/demjanjuk.s2

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Demjanjuk Case - Appeal Summary
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Sobibor,Treblinka,Demjanjuk

Archive/File: holocaust/poland/reinhard/demjanjuk demjanjuk.s2
Last-Modified: 1994/01/07

                   Israel Information Service Gopher
               Director: Chaim Shacham, First Secretary
 Information Division              Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem
             Mail all Queries to
 Jerusalem, July 29, 1993

                          THE DEMJANJUK APPEAL
                     SUMMARY BY ASHER FELIX LANDAU

    In the Supreme Court, sitting as a Court of Criminal Appeals,
    before the President, Justice Meir Shamgar; the Deputy-President,
    Justice Menahem Elon; and Justices Aharon Barak, Eliezer Goldberg,
    and Ya'acov Maltz, in the matter of Ivan (John) Demjanjuk,
    appellant, versus the State of Israel, respondent (Cr.A.  347/88).

    The appellant, who was extradited to Israel from the United States
    in February 1986, was convicted on April 18, 1988, in the District
    Court of Jerusalem, of crimes against the Jewish People under
    section 1(a)(1) of the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment)
    Law of 1950; crimes against humanity under Section l(a)(2) of the
    said Law; war crimes under section l(a)(3) of that Law; and crimes
    against persecuted people under section 2(1) of that Law, together
    with section 300 of the Penal law of 1977.  He was sentenced to
    death and he appealed, both against the conviction and sentence,
    to the Supreme Court.

    The indictment against the appellant recited in some detail the
    origin and development of the 'Final Solution of the Jewish
    Problem', including what is known as 'Operation Reinhardt',
    devised by the Nazi regime in Germany, and the acts of the
    appellant in the course of that operation.

    'Operation Reinhardt' followed the organized massacres by bands of
    murderers (Einsatzgruppen) which roamed through the East,
    concentrated groups of Jews, and shot them.  It was aimed at
    expediting and improving the extermination process by rounding up
    Jews and conveying them to death camps to be killed in gas
    chambers.  It included guarding the victims on their way to, and
    in, the camps, and their removal from the railway trucks.  It also
    covered mobilization of forced Jewish slave-laborers driven by
    threats, violence, and murder, who collected their clothes and
    valuables, cut their hair, and also tore out teeth from the
    corpses which they conveyed for burial and later for cremation

    More specifically, the appellant was alleged to have served as an
    S.S.  'Wachman', and to have perpetrated unspeakable acts of
    cruelty in conducting victims in the Treblinka concentration camp
    on the way to their death and to have operated, with his own
    hands, the engines which pumped the poisonous exhaust fumes into
    the gas chambers, thus causing the death of hundreds of thousands
    of people killed in this manner.

    It was also alleged that the appellant, because of his cruelty,
    was called by the prisoners in Treblinka 'Ivan Grozny' ('Ivan the
    Terrible'), and that he was widely known and recognized by that

    The appellant did not deny that the cruel acts alleged in the
    indictment had been committed, but he did deny that he had ever
    been at Treblinka, or that he was 'Ivan the Terrible' who had
    served there.  The District Court, however, found that his
    identity had been established, and that he had indeed committed
    the acts attributed to him.

    The Supreme Court, in its judgment, first related the background
    to the extermination of the Jews in Poland, and then described in
    detail the Treblinka death camp and the atrocities committed
    there, the part played by 'Ivan the Terrible' in those atrocities,
    and his criminal responsibility for his actions under the sections
    of the Law cited in the indictment.

    The Court then referred to the postponements of the hearing of the
    appeal following the death of the late Advocate Dov Eitan, who was
    to have appeared with Advocate Sheftel in the appeal, and
    following an injury to Advocate Sheftel as a result of acid being
    thrown in his face.

    Moreover, prior to the beginning of counsels' arguments on May 14,
    1989.  and subsequent thereto, numerous applications were
    submitted - mostly by defense counsel - for the admission of new
    evidence, and also for the hearing of evidence on commission.
    Pointing out that section 15 of the Nazi Punishment Law permitted
    the court 'to deviate from the rules of evidence if it is
    satisfied that this will promote the ascertainment of the truth
    and the just handling of the case', and recalling the warning of
    the Supreme Court in the Eichmann case that that power should be
    exercised only where the new evidence would be of importance and
    could not have reasonably been brought before the trial court, the
    Court had admitted further evidence relevant, inter alia, to the
    identification of the appellant as 'Ivan the Terrible'.  After all
    the delays the hearing of the appeal, including counsels' further
    arguments, eventually concluded on June 9, 1992.

    Counsel had submitted, the Court continued, that the appellant
    could not be tried for crimes under the Nazi Punishment Law since
    he had been extradited to stand trial on charges of murder while
    the indictment referred to the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators
    (Punishment) Law.  Counsel had relied, in this regard, on 'the
    principle of specialty', embodied in sections 17 and 24 of the
    Extradition Law of 1954 under which, in short, an extradited
    person may not be tried in the country requesting the extradition
    for offenses other than those for which the extradition was
    requested and granted, save with the consent of the extraditing
    country or of the wanted person himself.

    After citing numerous precedents and legal texts, and a
    far-ranging analysis of the comparison between the crimes imputed
    to the appellant and the crime of murder, the Court upheld the
    District Court's decision that the principle of specialty had not
    been infringed in the present case.

    A central feature relied upon by the court in this context was the
    awareness of the American courts which dealt with the appellant's
    extradition of the crimes for which he would be tried in Israel,
    and the relevant sections of the Israeli statute which would be
    invoked.  Judge Battisti, in the court of first instance, said
    that 'Respondent's argument that one who kills an individual is
    extraditable but one who kills many is not extraditable ...  leads
    to an absurdity'.  Moreover, the American court said, on appeal,
    that '...the particular acts of murder for which he (the
    appellant) may be tried depend upon Israeli law.  Israel may try
    him under the provisions of the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators
    (Punishment) Law for 'crimes against the Jewish People' ('Killing
    Jews', a species of murder), 'crimes against humanity ('murder ...
    of civilian population') and 'war crimes' ('murder of civilian
    population of or in occupied territory').  The principle of
    specialty does not impose any limitation on the particulars of the
    charge so long as it encompasses only the offence for which
    extradition was granted'.

    Turning to the evidence of the appellant's identification as
    having served in Treblinka and having personally operated the gas
    machines there, the Court then dealt with the 'Trawniki
    Certificate', which occupied a central place in the trial.

    Trawniki was the site of a training camp for Russian prisoners of
    war who had volunteered to act as guards - Wachmaner - in
    assisting the Germans in 'Operation Reinhardt'.  The appellant, as
    a member of the Trawniki Unit, was issued with a service
    certificate (Dienstausweis) as an 'S.S.  Wachman', which included
    his photograph and stated his personal particulars (including the
    place and date of his birth).  The defense contended that no such
    certificates had been issued, and that the certificate relied upon
    by the prosecution was a forgery of the K.G.B.  However, it was
    established by experts that the certificate was authentic, and the
    production of similar certificates disproved the contention that
    the 'Trawniki Certificate' was an isolated forgery.

    Moreover, the additional evidence received in the appeal (which is
    dealt with later in this summary), includes a 'posting order' and
    'orders of the day' in which the appellant's personal number, as
    stated in the 'Trawniki Certificate', is mentioned, and in one of
    which his date and place of birth are recorded.

    After considering, inter alia, the admissibility and weight of the
    certificate as a 'public document' or an 'old document' under
    sections 29 and 43 of the Evidence Ordinance (New Version) of
    1971, the evidence of the experts, the appellant's own references
    to the certificate, and the right of the court to rely on its own
    examination of the document, the Court accepted the finding that
    the certificate was authentic, and proved the appellant's
    participation in the extermination program - a finding supported
    also by other evidence.  However, it also agreed with the District
    Court that the mention in the document of camps other than
    Treblinka in which the appellant had served while Treblinka was
    not mentioned at all, did not prove the appellant's denial that he
    had served there, but was to be taken into account on this vital

    The appellant, the Court continued, had pleaded an alibi both in
    regard to the period during which he was alleged to have been in
    Treblinka, and also after the extermination camps at Treblinka,
    Sobibor, and Belz had ceased to function.  After dealing with the
    legal aspects of the defence of an alibi, and a close examination
    of the evidence relating to both these periods, the Court agreed
    with the District Court that the alibi relating to the relevant
    period (1942-1943) had had been completely rebutted while - in
    view of evidence received after the trial - the rebuttal in regard
    to the period after 1944 was not complete.

    The Court then turned to the question of the identification of the
    appellant as having served in Treblinka, and his activities there.
    Citing numerous authorities, it dealt first with the general
    principles applicable relating, inter alia, to the identification
    of a suspect on the basis of photographs.  It then examined, in
    great detail, the evidence of the eye-witnesses who had testified
    before the District Court, or whose statements had been admitted
    as evidence.  In regard to the statements, it also reviewed the
    procedures which had been followed to meet the demands of section
    15 of the Nazi Punishments Law which, as stated above, empowers
    the court to deviate from the rules of evidence 'if it is
    satisfied that this will promote the ascertainment of the truth,
    and the just handling of the case'.

    After a searching analysis of the evidence of all the witnesses
    relating to the appellant's identity, and of defense counsels'
    arguments, the court found no basis for interfering with the
    District Court's findings based on that testimony.  The Court
    dealt extensively, inter alia, with the professional literature
    relating to evidence of identification after many years, including
    the opinion that lapse of time does not, in itself, preclude

    The Court also pointed out that the District Court, in admitting
    depositions under section 15 above, had only deviated from the
    rules of evidence in admitting the depositions of witnesses who
    had died in the period between their examination and the trial,
    and only after those who had taken the depositions had given
    evidence and were available for cross-examination by the defense.

    Before considering the additional evidence adduced after the
    appeal had been lodged, the Court rejected the criticisms of
    appellant's counsel of the manner in which the District Court had
    discharged its task.

    The Court then turned to consider the additional evidence admitted
    at the stage of appeal.  This evidence consisted of written
    depositions, relating to different periods, given in the U.S.S.R.
    by 'Wachmaner' who were examined in regard to their own crimes,
    and some of whom were sentenced to death.  Their testimony related
    to Treblinka, where they served, and not a few of them mentioned a
    Ukrainian 'Wachman' called Ivan Marchenko as the person who
    operated the machines of the gas chambers in that camp.

    In weighing the additional evidence, the court first dealt with
    the necessity of proof of the defendant's guilt 'beyond a
    reasonable doubt'.  The authorities made it clear that the
    prosecution was not required to provide proof 'beyond all doubt'.
    Some lingering or fanciful doubt was not sufficient to justify an
    acquittal of the defendant.  On the other hand, it had been said
    that the degree of proof 'need not reach certainty, but it must
    carry a high degree of probability'.

    The Court explained that the expression 'reasonable doubt' was to
    be interpreted rationally.  The evidence should be consistent, but
    if there were contradictions, the Court was entitled to decide
    what evidence it was prepared to accept.  However, there had to be
    a reasonable basis for rejecting evidence as untrustworthy.

    The Court then analyzed in detail the additional evidence, citing
    also the opinions of experts on identification.  It was true that
    the direct additional evidence consisted only of depositions taken
    in the U.S.S.R., without the testimony of those who had taken
    them.  The number of these depositions, however, created a
    reasonable doubt which could not be dispelled by speculation and

    After the most careful consideration the Court had reached the
    conclusion that the evidence now before it created a reasonable
    possibility that the appellant was not the person called 'Ivan the
    Terrible' who operated the gas chambers at Treblinka.  That was
    the crime with which he was charged in the indictment, and on that
    charge he was entitled to be acquitted.

    On the other hand, the evidence before the District Court and the
    additional evidence showed that the appellant had served as an
    S.S.  'Wachman' in the Trawniki Unit, and one deposition (of a
    'Wachman' called Danilchenko) described in detail the appellant's
    service in Sobibor.  This deponent had also identified the
    appellant in three photographic 'identification parades',
    containing three different photographs of the appellant.
    Danilchenko died before the appellant's trial had begun.

    Under section 216 of the Criminal Procedure Law (Consolidated
    Version) of 1982, the Court continued, the court may convict the
    defendant of an offence of which he is shown to be guilty by the
    facts proved before it even though those facts are not alleged in
    the indictment, provided the defendant has been given a reasonable
    opportunity to defend himself.

    The facts proved the appellant's participation in the
    extermination process, the Court noted, and could perhaps sustain
    his conviction of other offenses under the Nazi Punishment Law.
    The application of section 216, moreover, could also require a
    reconsideration of the 'principle of specialty' in regard to such

    In view, however, of the circumstances now existing, the Court had
    decided not to apply section 216 in the present case.  Affording
    the appellant 'a reasonable opportunity' to defend himself now
    meant an additional extension of the hearings beyond an acceptable
    limit.  Even taking into account the nature and extreme gravity of
    any charge or charges which could now be preferred against the
    appellant, a change in the basis of the extradition, more than
    seven years after the proceedings against the appellant were
    opened, would be unreasonable.  The right of defense in a criminal
    trial was of the greatest importance, and was not to be sacrificed
    whatever were the reasons for the delays in the proceedings
    against the appellant.

    The final result, therefore, was the acquittal of the appellant,
    on the basis of a reasonable doubt, Of the offence attributed to
    him in the indictment.

    The question of the 'principle of specialty', within the framework
    of extradition proceedings, therefore fell away.

    In conclusion, the Court reiterated that, more than seven years
    ago, Ivan Demjanjuk had been lawfully extradited from the United
    States to Israel.  The extradition was based on prima facie
    evidence.  There was testimony before both the District and the
    Supreme Courts that the appellant was a member of the 'S.S.
    Wachman Unit' of Trawniki, which was established for the sole
    purpose of learning and teaching its members to destroy, kill, and
    exterminate, in implementing the 'final solution' of the 'Jewish

    There was also evidence that after the appellant received his
    'Trawniki Certificate', he was posted to Sobibor, one of three
    extermination camps established by the German authorities of the
    Third Reich within the framework of the 'Reinhardt Operation'.  It
    was also shown that he served with the S.S.  in the Flossenberg
    and Regensburg concentration camps.  The appellant was therefore a
    member of a group of 'S.S.  Wachmaner' whose purpose was murder
    and whose objective was genocide, and whose like is unknown in the
    history of humanity.

    The thrust of the indictment against the appellant was his
    identity as 'Ivan the Terrible', who operated the gas chambers in
    the Treblinka extermination camp.  A number of survivors of the
    hell of Treblinka identified the appellant as 'Ivan the Terrible',
    one of the main murderers and persecutors Of the Jews who were
    brought to Treblinka on their way to suffocation in the gas
    chambers, and for this he was convicted in the District Court.

    After the hearing of argument in the appeal, the Court admitted
    the statements of a number of in which some person other than the
    appellant was referred to as Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka.  The
    court did not know the origin or authorship of these statements,
    but admitted them as evidence without formal proof of their
    authenticity.  These statements raised reasonable doubts as to the
    identity of the appellant as Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, and
    deterred the Court from convicting him on this charge.

    In the result, the 'Wachman' Ivan Demjanjuk is acquitted, by
    reason of doubt, of the outrageous crimes attributed to Ivan the
    Terrible of Treblinka.  Judges, who are only human, cannot reach
    perfection, and it is only right that they judge on the basis of
    what is placed before them, and on that basis alone.

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