U.S. renews bid to banish Nazi suspect
Demjanjuk, once suspected of being “Ivan the Terrible,” was extradited
to Israel in 1986. A new complaint alleges he was a guard at three Nazi
concentration and extermination camps
But drops claim that Cleveland’s John Demjanjuk is ‘Ivan the Terrible’
WASHINGTON (CNN) — In the latest twist of its long-running battle with
suspected Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk, the Justice Department
asked a federal court Wednesday to strip the 79-year-old retired auto
worker of his U.S. citizenship.
The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk lives in Cleveland.
He was extradited to Israel in 1986 to stand trial for crimes against
humanity, but then was cleared of being the infamous gas chamber
operator known as “Ivan the Terrible.”
Demjanjuk, who would have faced the death penalty in Israel if
convicted, returned to the United States when evidence from the Soviet
Union suggested another man could have been “Ivan.”
The Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations,
which was criticized by a U.S. appellate court in 1994 for “reckless”
withholding of evidence that might have cleared Demjanjuk in the
earlier case, filed a new complaint Wednesday in U.S. District Court in
A Justice Department official told CNN that if the government is
successful in the proceedings, it will likely move to deport Demjanjuk
to his native Ukraine.
Demjanjuk’s alibi …
The new complaint alleges that Demjanjuk was a guard at the Sobibor
extermination camp in Poland and at the Majdanek, Poland, and
Flossenburg, Germany, concentration camps during World War II. It
further alleges that he served in the Nazi SS-run “Trawniki” unit that
participated in a campaign to annihilate the Jews of Europe.
The government dropped its previous claim that Demjanjuk was “Ivan the
Terrible,” the guard who operated a gas chamber at the Treblinka
Throughout the proceedings against him, which began 22 years ago,
Demjanjuk has denied serving as a guard in any concentration or death
He claimed he was a farmer in Poland and then a Soviet Red Army soldier
who spent most of the war in a German prison camp.
… is challenged
But both the Israeli Supreme Court and a U.S. federal judge assigned to
review the earlier proceedings cast doubt on Demjanjuk’s alibi.
The Israeli Supreme Court found Demjanjuk’s alibi “unreasonable” and
flatly concluded, “It is a lie.”
U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Wiseman Jr. of Nashville, Tennessee, who
was appointed by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to examine the
government’s conduct in the case, stated, “Mr. Demjanjuk’s alibi was so
incredible as to legitimately raise the suspicions of his prosecutors
that he lied about everything.”
In February of last year, a federal trial court threw out the earlier
order stripping Demjanjuk of his U.S. citizenship but specifically
permitted the government to file a new complaint if it believed that
evidence warranted it.
The new complaint
In the new complaint filed on Wednesday, the government alleged
Demjanjuk was an armed guard at Sobibor, which was established by the
Nazis solely to murder Jewish civilians.
It said Jewish prisoners arrived by train and armed guards ordered them
to strip naked and then herded them into gas chambers.
Exhaust from a diesel engine was then pumped into the Sobibor gas
chambers, where more than 200,000 men, women and children were
murdered, the government said.
The new complaint also alleged that Demjanjuk began working for the
Nazis in 1942 at the Trawniki training camp, an SS-run base in Nazi-
occupied Poland that prepared Eastern European recruits to assist
German soldiers in implementing Adolf Hitler’s genocidal race policies.
Demjanjuk and other Trawniki men participated in “Operation Reinhard,”
a Nazi program that rounded up 1.7 million Jews in Poland and murdered
them in mass shootings or in death camps with poison gas, the
Ten of thousands of other Jews were confined to slave labor camps where
many starved, died of exhaustion or were murdered.
The government said Demjanjuk was an armed guard at Majdanek
concentration camp in the occupied Polish city of Lublin. This camp
functioned as both a death and a labor camp, and between 200,000 and
360,000 prisoners died or were murdered there.
Demjanjuk also served as an SS guard at Flossenburg concentration camp,
where 30,000 prisoners died, the government charged.
When he entered the United States in 1952 and became a naturalized
citizen in 1958, Demjanjuk concealed his work on behalf of the Nazis by
claiming he spent the war working on a farm in Sobibor and as a laborer
in Germany, the government alleged.
CNN’s Terry Friedan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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