Court rejects bid to bar testimony in Demjanjuk Nazi trial

Judges hear statements from 1949 KGB interrogation in which guard says suspect brought Jewish civilians into the gas chamber.

October 27, 2010 21:48
2 minute read.
Accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk.

Accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk.. (photo credit: AP)


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MUNICH — German judges heard a deceased Sobibor guard's statements made to Soviet authorities that he remembers John Demjanjuk from the Nazi death camp Wednesday despite defense objections.

The Demjanjuk, 90, a retired Ohio autoworker, is standing trial on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder, for allegedly having been a guard at the camp in occupied Poland. He denies ever having been a guard anywhere.

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In the summarized statements from a 1949 KGB interrogation, Ignat Danilchenko said he remembered Demjanjuk from the death camp.

"He wore a German Waffen SS uniform, he carried German weapons, he took part in the guarding of Jewish civilians, and he brought them to the gas chamber," Danilchenko said, according to the summary.

Doubt has been cast on the statements — some of which have already come up in the current trial — in the past.

US investigators have said they contain numerous factual errors.

And in March, German historian Dieter Pohl, who was called as an expert witness, said the statements should be treated with the "highest caution" because they came from a KGB interrogation. He testified that it appeared Danilchenko was telling the KGB what interrogators wanted to hear.

Presiding Judge Ralph Alt rejected objections from defense attorney Ulrich Busch, who argued that the statements could have been made under torture, or the summaries faked. Alt referred to a previous ruling that the court would read the statements into the record and then decide on their credibility.

For the second day in a row, the trial opened late because of Demjanjuk's health.

Alt ordered Demjanjuk brought in from the prison hospital where he is being held after he did not show up on time.

Court doctor Albrecht Stein told the court that Demjanjuk complained of pain and said he did not want to attend. But Stein said he had examined Demjanjuk twice and given him another electrocardiogram, and found him fit for trial.

All this week Demjanjuk's attorney has argued that Demjanjuk is in serious pain and can no longer concentrate on the proceedings, but Stein has declared him able to go on.

Demjanjuk suffers from a number of medical problems, and since his trial began last November a dozen sessions have been canceled due to health problems.

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