Demjanjuk ruling ‘closes the circle,’ Dorner says

Former Supreme Court justice presided over 1988 case in Israel in which Demjanjuk was convicted, sentenced to death for being “Ivan the Terrible.”

May 13, 2011 05:52
2 minute read.
Dalia Dorner

Dalia Dorner. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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A Munich court’s guilty verdict in the case of John Demjanjuk, for his responsibility relating to the murder of some 28,000 Jews at Nazi death camp Sobibor, was welcomed on Thursday by former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner.

It was a way to “close the circle,” she said.

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Dorner, who while on the Jerusalem District Court presided over the 1988 case in Israel in which Demjanjuk was convicted and sentenced to death for being “Ivan the Terrible,” a notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp, also said she still had no doubt that he had been in both camps and had committed terrible war crimes.

“As the judge in the case of Ivan the Terrible, I have no doubt that he was the guard in Treblinka and he was only set free because of the legal process in this country,” said the judge, who served as a Supreme Court justice from 1993 to 2004.

“In my court room, I heard his victims identify him and I knew that he was guilty,” said Dorner, who was further convinced by his SS identification card that throughout both trials was claimed by the defense to be false.

Despite being convicted and sentenced to death on the basis of testimonies from 10 Holocaust survivors who had been in Treblinka, the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk (who changed his name from Ivan to John after immigrating to the US in 1952) was later freed by Israel’s Supreme Court on the basis of reasonable doubt when new evidence undermined the contention that he was Treblinka’s gas-chamber- operating Ivan the Terrible.

“I don’t like to call [what he did] murder, it was more ethnic cleansing of a nation,” continued Dorner, who in recent years headed a government commission aimed at improving the lives of Holocaust survivors in Israel. “It has always been clear to me that this person, according to all the information and testimonies I heard, was in both Sobibor and Treblinka.”

Following his 1993 reprieve, Demjanjuk returned to US. However, he was deported to Germany in 2009, when enough evidence had been gathered to place him at the Sobibor death camp between March and September 1943. German prosecutors accused him of being involved in the murders of tens of thousands of Jews.

“For the first time we have even found lists of names of the people who Demjanjuk personally led into the gas chambers,” Kurt Schrimm, head of Germany’s special office investigating Nazi crimes, said in a BBC report.

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