The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Demjanjuk Case
The Appeal - Stage I
1988 - 1990


The notice of appeal filed by the defense occupied 101 pages and reopened the hearing on all matters and all bones of contention that had come up between it and the prosecution in the district court. A plea that constantly recurred in the entire notice of appeal, was that the court that had sat in judgment was biased against the defense counsel and against the appellant, and this fact had clouded its judgment and made it blind to the reality of the evidence. Accordingly, the defense counsel said, inasmuch as this defect touched on the root of the matter, the Court had issued a judgment that was entirely erroneous, and the Appellant ought rightfully be acquitted of all charges.


In the period from April 25, 1988 (date of sentence) to May 14, 1990 (date of commencement of the hearing of the appeal) there took place numerous sessions of the Supreme Court, in which various issues of the case were discussed, additional evidence was admitted in appeal, and an additional enquiry was conducted in Germany of a female defense witness, whose testimony was alleged vital to establishing the plausibility of Demjanjuk's alibi plea.


A. On May 14, 1990, the Supreme Court convened in a panel of five judges to hear the appeal itself. Heading the panel was Justice Meir Shamgar, along with Deputy President Menahem Eilon and Justices Aharon Barak, Eliezer Goldberg and Yaakov Meltz, and the hearing of the appeal commenced.

B. The defense pleaded its case May 14-29, 1990 (ten sessions). The prosecution responded by pleading its case May 31-June 20, 1990 (twelve sessions). The defense counsel responded last June 26-28, 1990 (three sessions).


As stated, the appeal itself related to all the subjects reviewed before the lower court -- most of them factual matters, even though legal issues also featured prominently.

A. The defense again attacked the identification issue in detail, and again produced its version as to the Trawninki certificate being a forgery -- analyzing the testimony of the experts and attacking the findings of the lower court, even in matters of decision based on the confidence placed by the court in a certain expert, preferring him over an expert of conflicting opinion. The defense again advanced the Appellant's sweeping alibi plea, n amely that throughout the period relevant to the indictment the Appellant was being held in a prison camp and never enlisted in the service of the S.S. and above all, the following plea was repeatedly advanced: 'The Court had a deep-seated bias against the Accused and against the defense counsel -- from which it did not free itself throughout the trial period. This bias nourished itself from the press and found expression in overt hostility toward the defense counsel, in erroneous interim decisions and in a judgment which is fundamentally tainted'.

B. The prosecution, in its reply, answered the pleas put forward by the counsel for the defense, relying on the evidence before the court, including that which had been added, and with reference to the determination of the lower court on the subject.


Upon conclusion of the hearing of the parties' pleas in the appeal, the court adjourned to study the material in evidence, in voluminous protocols and pleadings in order to give its decision on the case.


A. In the period from the passing of judgment in April 1988 to the end of the hearing of the parties' pleadings in the appeal -- there occurred number of developments obliging the prosecution, in line with its concept of its role in the case in general and in this trial in particular, to endeavor to thoroughly investigate various aspects of the issues reviewed in the trial.

B. The prosecution assessed that evidence material found in the U.S.S.R. might shed light on these issues and that the thaw in international relations between the two states should be utilized for initiating measures that would perhaps afford it access to the aforesaid potential material.

C. The account of the prosecution's contacts with the U.S.S.R., including the discovery of the evidence material there -- described in the next chapter.

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