Jewish groups hail news of Demjanjuk guilty verdict

Wiesenthal Center director calls conviction a "long-awaited victory," Yad Vashem: "There's no statute of limitations on Holocaust crimes."

May 12, 2011 15:11
2 minute read.
Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff

efraim zuroff 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Jewish groups welcomed news on Thursday that a German court had sentenced John Demjanjuk to five years in prison for his role in the murder of 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor Nazi concentration camp during World War II, saying justice had prevailed.

Officials at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum said the verdict highlighted the culpability of the Nazis' allies which they claimed were a key component in the genocidal campaign carried out by Berlin against Jews.

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"While no trial can bring back those that were murdered, holding those responsible to justice has an important moral and educational role in society," said Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem. "The conviction today of Demjanjuk underscores the fact that even though the policies of the 'Final Solution' - the systematic murder of six million European Jews -- were set and carried out by the German Nazi regime, the murder could not have taken place without the participation of myriads of Europeans on many levels. Their role was also criminal." Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said the verdict proved that no statute of limitations applied in cases involving the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.

"The conviction today of death camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk, who actively participated in the mass murder of tens of thousands of Jews in the Sobibor death camp, sends a powerful message that those responsible for Holocaust crimes can still be held accountable even though decades have passed since they were committed," he said. "Demjanjuk's conviction, moreover, will hopefully facilitate the prosecution of additional Nazi war criminals in Germany and in other countries. Today's verdict is a long-awaited victory for the victims, their families and people of moral conscience." Other Jewish groups praised the German court's willingness to confront the country's past. The World Jewish Congress said that although it believed the judges delivered a "mild" sentence, it commended them for holding Demjanjuk accountable for his role at Sobibor.

"Belatedly, justice has now been done, and the family members of those who were brutally murdered in Sobibor will certainly welcome this verdict," WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said. "We praise Germany for continuing to prosecute Nazi war criminals and their helpers, and we urge authorities there ­ and in other European countries ­ not to relent in their quest for bringing the perpetrators of the Holocaust to justice."

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