Israeli to testify against alleged Nazi Demjanjuk

Israeli, former Nazi to

November 3, 2009 21:40
3 minute read.

The trial of alleged Nazi guard John Demjanjuk, charged with being an accessory to the murder of 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Poland, is scheduled to begin in Munich on November 30. Barbara Stockinger, a spokeswoman for the Munich public prosecutor, confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Monday that an Israeli government official will testify against Demjanjuk. Twenty-three witnesses overall are scheduled to testify, including Samuel K., an 88-year-old Nazi who allegedly assisted the SS in the murder of 434,000 victims, Stockinger said. Asked whether Samuel K. has been charged with murder, Ulrich Mass, the director of the Dortmund public prosecutor's office responsible for war crimes during the Nazi period, told the Post that "he heard a few weeks ago about the man" but is waiting on "documentation from the United States and the Nazi research center in Ludwigsburg." Mass said that at this stage he has "notably little material" in connection with Samuel K, who has not been charged with Nazi crimes. The Munich and Dortmund prosecutor's offices declined to release the last name of Samuel K. at this stage of the investigation. According to a report in Der Spiegel, Samuel K. lives in a small town near Bonn in North Rhine-Westphalia state. "We all realized that the Jews were exterminated and later also burned there. We could smell that every day," he told the news weekly. While he wasn't a camp guard in Sobibor, Samuel K. admitted to Der Spiegel that he was recruited by the SS and served at the Belzec death camp and Trawniki concentration camp, also in Poland. Asked what information Samuel K. will provide at the Demjanjuk trial, Stockinger, the Munich prosecutor's spokeswoman responded, "general affairs." She declined to elaborate. Samuel K. "was able to lead a quiet life in Germany for over 60 years, like many other Nazi henchmen," according to Der Spiegel. Moreover, "he has never attempted to hide from the German authorities the fact that he had been recruited by the SS to aid in its murderous activities." He worked for a German government ministry. Efraim Zuroff, director of the the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Israel office, told the Post that "hopefully he [Samuel K.] will be charged." Asked about the delay in prosecuting Samuel K., Zuroff said, "That is a legitimate question: Why was it not done previously? At least it is being done now. I am very pleased that Demjanjuk will be brought up on criminal charges... It is a very significant decision of the German judiciary to be proactive." In 2007, the Wiesenthal Center issued a "failing grade" in its annual report to the German authorities for failing to seek indictments and convictions against Nazi war criminals. But over the past two years, Germany has proved "that it is capable of doing more that it had been doing," Zuroff said. The prosecution of Demjanjuk is "encouraging for other countries" where there is a "lack of political will" to pursue cases against Nazi war criminals and collaborators, he said, citing Austria, Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania. Zuroff said there is a frequent misunderstanding concerning the 1980s trial of Demjanjuk in Israel and his exoneration as the notorious Nazi guard "Ivan the Terrible." His conviction for crimes against humanity was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1993 due to a finding of reasonable doubt based on evidence suggesting that Demjanjuk was not "Ivan the Terrible" and had, in fact, been a guard at camps other than the one at Treblinka. He served a seven-year sentence for his "membership in a Nazi organization" and was "expelled from Israel" following the term, Zuroff said. Stockinger said the trial in Germany will be limited to three hours each day because of a doctor's opinion stating that the 89-year-old Demjanjuk's physical condition allows for only two 90-minute sessions a day. The trial will run from late November to May with 35 daily hearings planned.

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