Investigator: Evidence shows Demjanjuk at Sobibor

Defense attorney: The paperwork "doesn't matter at all...It doesn't show that he was in the death camp."

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

Evidence shows that John Demjanjukwas a guard at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland, and everyonewho was there was either a victim or a cog in the Nazi machinery ofdeath, a German investigator testified Tuesday.

Thomas Walther, who led the investigation that prompted Germany to prosecute Demjanjuk,told the Munich state court that "the Sobibor death camp was ahermetically sealed area in which only two groups of people had entry"— Nazi guards and their victims.

"Every member of the first group, with very high probability, took part in the murder of the second group," he testified.

Demjanjuk,89, a retired Ohio autoworker, is accused of serving as a low-levelcamp guard and charged as an accessory to 27,900 murders. He rejectsthe charges, saying he never served at the Sobibor camp or any otherNazi camp.

But Walther cited postwar paperwork in which Demjanjuk noted "Sobibor, Poland" as a place of residence.

Defense attorney Ulrich Busch said Demjanjukdidn't live in the town, but even if he had it wouldn't mean that hehad anything to do with the neighboring camp. The paperwork "doesn'tmatter at all," Busch said. "It doesn't show that he was in the deathcamp."

Still, other evidence links Demjanjukto the camp, including an SS identity card with a photo that says heworked at Sobibor, Walther said. The defense has disputed the card'sauthenticity, however, and a witness statement submitted by Waltherraised questions about its validity.

Walther also cited the conclusions drawn in a US appeals court ruling from 2006 when Demjanjuklost a bid to stop his deportation. It found a previous court had madeclear the evidence showed he "served willingly as an armed guard" atSobibor.Demjanjuk is being tried inMunich because he lived in the area briefly after the war. He emigratedto the US in 1952 and gained citizenship in 1958.

Demjanjukclaims to be a victim of mistaken identity, saying he was a Red Armyconscript from Ukraine who was captured in Crimea in 1942 and heldprisoner until joining the Vlasov Army. That force of anti-communistSoviet POWs and others was formed to fight with the Germans against theSoviets in the final months of the war.

Demjanjuk's Vlasov Army commander, Walter Dubovec, told American investigators two decades ago that he knew nothing of Demjanjuk's past before they first met in 1945, according to a document provided by Walther.

Dubovec also said he knew Demjanjuk well and doubted the picture on the SS card is his.

"Iam not convinced that this is the same person," Dubovec said, accordingto testimony read by presiding Judge Ralph Alt in German. "There werethousands of soldiers in the Soviet army with faces like this."

Demjanjuklay in a bed and showed no reaction throughout the session, a baseballhat pulled down over his face as at previous hearings. On Tuesday, healso wore sunglasses.

The postwar paperwork submitted by Walther included a 1948 application for assistance from a refugee organization, in which Demjanjuk said that from April 1937 to January 1943 he worked as a driver for a company in Sobibor.

A 1950 report from the US Commission for Displaced People also noted that Demjanjuk told them he was an "independent farmer" in Sobibor from 1936 to 1943.

Walther said Demjanjukhas told investigators in the past that he named Sobibor on postwarforms to try and obscure the fact he was Ukrainian. He wanted to avoiddeportation to Ukraine, where he would have faced likely prosecution bythe Soviets for serving in the Vlasov Army.
Walther said Demjanjukfirst said he was given the name "Sobibor" by a consular official, thenin another statement told investigators that he had picked it randomlyfrom a map.
The investigator, who has now retired from thespecial German prosecutors' office responsible for investigatingNazi-era crimes, said the name Sobibor — a tiny town in eastern Poland— only shows up on the most detailed maps of the time. He said he hadserious doubts that Demjanjuk picked it randomly.
In the 1980s, Demjanjukstood trial in Israel, accused of being the notoriously brutal guard"Ivan the Terrible" at the Treblinka extermination camp. He wasconvicted, sentenced to death — then freed when an Israeli court foundthat he was a victim of mistaken identity.