New-york times, Demjanjuk John

author: Stephen Labaton
title: No Review of Court Ruling That Let Demjanjuk Return
newspaper: The New York Times
date: October 4, 1994
page: A18

No Review of Court Ruling That Let Demjanjuk Return
By Stephen Labaton, Special to the New York Times

Washington Oct. 3 – The Supreme Court today struck
what could be a fatal blow to the Government’s
17-year effort to banish John Demjanjuk, the World
War II figure whom the Justice Department once
described as one of the most barbaric Nazi figures of
the Holocaust.

Without comment, the court refused to review a
Federal appeals decision that had found that the
Justice Department lawyers had mishandled the case
and fraudulently deceived both the courts and the
defense team when they accused Mr. Demjanjuk of being
the notorious Ivan the Terrible, a sadistic gas
chamber operator at the Treblinka death camp in Poland.

Mr. Demjanjuk’s family immediately hailed the
decision and said it should enable Mr. Demjanjuk, a
74-year-old retired autoworker who lives in a suburb
of Cleveland, to remain in the United States.

“Today’s decision makes it absolutely clear that the
Department of Justice defrauded the U.S. Courts,
deceived the American people and destroyed Mr.
Demjanjuk’s good name,” said his son-in-law, Edward

Although the Justice Department said it would
continue to fight in a related proceeding in Federal
District Court in Cleveland to keep Mr. Demjanjuk
from regaining his American citizenship, Government
lawyers had said in their Supreme Court petition that
any reluctance by the Justices to overturn the
earlier decision could prevent them from withholding
his citizenship.

“If left undisturbed, there is a significant
likelihood that the decision below will hinder the
Government’s efforts to remove” Mr. Demjanjuk from
the United States, said a Supreme Court brief signed
by Solicitor General Drew S. Days and Assistant
Attorney General Jo Ann Harris. “if the judgment
below becomes final, the government may be precluded
in the proceedings involving respondent’s

But today the Justice Department’s chief spokesman,
Carl Stern, said that portion of the Government’s
brief was not a statement of the law but was intended
only to foreshadow possible legal arguments made by
Mr. Demjanjuk’s lawyers. Mr. Stern said the Supreme
Court’s decision would not affect the department’s
effort to prevent Mr. Demjanjuk from regaining his

The Government has argued in that proceeding that
the Court should continue to withhold Mr. Demjanjuk’s
citizenship because he lied about his past on his
immigration papers.

“if anything, the Court’s decision now permits the
district court in Cleveland to accelerate to removal
of Demjanjuk,” Mr. Stern said/

Since Mr. Demjanjuk was stripped of his American
citizenship and extradited to Israel in 1986 after an
American court, based on the testimony of several
Treblinka survivors, found that he was Ivan the
terrible, the guard who hacked and tortured his
victims before running the engines that pumped
lethal gas in the chambers where more than 800,000
men, women, and children perished. The court also
found that Mr. Demjanjuk was trained at the Trawniki
camp as a guard but concealed his past on his
immigration papers when he came to the United States.

An Israeli court also concluded that Mr. Demjanjuk
was Ivan, and he served five years on death row
there. But last summer the Israeli Supreme Court
reversed its conviction on the ground that there had
been evidence suggesting that the guard Ivan was
another man, named Marchenko, who has not been seen
since the end of the war.

Over the objection of the Justice Department, Mr.
Demjanjuk became the first convicted war criminal
ejected from the United States to be permitted to
return. The Federal appeals court in Cincinnati
ordered his return while the courts sorted out his

For the past year, he has turned down requests for
interviews, preferring to lead a quiet life with his
family in Seven Hills, Ohio.

After suffering several embarrassing defeats in a
Federal appeals court in Cincinnati, Justice
Department lawyers shifted their legal strategy in
December and abandoned their long-held contention
that Mr. Demjanjuk was Ivan. Instead, they continued
to content that he was a guard at other Nazi death
camps, like Sobibor, Flossenburg and Regensburg, and
that he trained as a guard at Trawniki along with
some of the most ruthless Nazi guards of that time.

Mr. Demjanjuk says he was a prisoner of the Nazis
during this time, having been captured while serving
in the Soviet Army during the war.

The Justice Department has been frustrated about the
case, as evidence has mounted suggesting that some
officials had doubts about the case and that the
prosecutors failed to provide Mr. Demjanjuk and his
lawyers with significant information that could have
helped his defense. None of the main prosecutors who
have been criticized by the appeals court remain at
the department, leaving the current team of
prosecutors with a messy record that they have to

The prosecutors have lost four times in Federal
courts and have been excoriated by an appeals panel
who found that Mr. Demjanjuk was extradited as a
result of prosecutorial misconduct. And during the
Supreme Court appeal, new evidence emerged to further
suggest that prosecutors had purposely failed to tell
Mr. Demjanjuk about their private doubts about
important aspects of the case.

Last-Modified: 1997/11/10