US takes steps to deport Demjanjuk

Washington asks German officials for travel documents needed to extradite accused Nazi guard.

Demjanjuk hearing 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Demjanjuk hearing 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The US government said Tuesday it is asking German officials for travel documents needed to deport accused World War II Nazi guard John Demjanjuk, who is charged in Europe with 29,000 counts of accessory to murder. Immigration and Customs Enforcement provided an e-mail to The Associated Press showing that it has contacted the German government in its effort to deport Demjanjuk, once accused but ultimately cleared of being a notorious guard at the Treblinka concentration camp in occupied Poland. The 88-year-old suburban Cleveland man was charged in Germany in March with crimes while working as a guard at Sobibor, a Nazi death camp in Poland. His son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said Tuesday that his father remains at home and is not in federal custody. The German warrant seeks the deportation or extradition of Demjanjuk, who lives in Seven Hills and denies involvement in any deaths. Prosecutors in Munich, Germany, said Demjanjuk will be formally charged in front of a judge once he is extradited. "In this capacity, he participated in the accessory to murder of at least 29,000 people of the Jewish faith," the prosecutor's office has said. It is handling the case because Demjanjuk spent time at a refugee camp in the area after the war. The suspect's family has said he is in poor health and unable to travel. "My dad spent a few hours in the emergency room the other day," John Demjanjuk Jr. said. "He is being treated for kidney stones at present." He said his father has chronic kidney disease, along with other serious ailments. Kurt Schrimm, head of the special German prosecutors' office that has hunted Nazis since 1958 and who asked Munich prosecutors to pursue Demjanjuk's extradition, declined to comment Tuesday. Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based human rights organization, welcomed the development. "We're very pleased that these steps are being taken to facilitate Demjanjuk's extradition to Germany so that he can be tried and can be given an appropriate punishment for his heinous crimes during World War II," Zuroff told The Associated Press by phone from Jerusalem. German Justice Ministry spokesman Ulrich Staudegle said he could not confirm that U.S. authorities had requested any specific documents, but reiterated that the German government was working closely with the U.S. to secure Demjanjuk's extradition or deportation. Demjanjuk was accused in 1977 of concealing a past as a notorious Nazi death camp guard known as "Ivan the Terrible" at Treblinka. In 1986, Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel when the U.S. Justice Department believed he was the sadistic Nazi guard known as Ivan the Terrible at the Treblinka death camp. He spent seven years in custody before the Israeli high court freed him after receiving evidence in 1993 that another Ukrainian, not Demjanjuk, was that Nazi guard. Demjanjuk was allowed to return to the United States. Demjanjuk, who emigrated to the United States in 1952, has said he served in the Soviet army and became a prisoner of war when he was captured by Germany in 1942. The Justice Department sought in 1999 to revoke Demjanjuk's restored citizenship, alleging he was a guard at Nazi camps of death and forced labor. The chief immigration judge ruled in 2005 that Demjanjuk could be deported to Germany, Poland or Ukraine. The U.S. Supreme Court in May declined to hear an appeal of the deportation ruling.