‘The last great Nazi trial’

John Demjanjuk’s trial in Munich may mark the end of an era

by Katie Engelhart

'The last great Nazi trial'It is being touted as the last great Nazi trial. In November, John Demjanjuk—now first on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of most-wanted war criminals—will appear before a Munich court. He is charged with 27,900 counts of accessory to murder for his role as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Demjanjuk is 89, and those in favour of prosecuting him feel a sense of urgency. “It’s a race against time,” says Michael Scharf, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University who has worked on the trials of Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic. “They’re trying to close the book on justice before [his] life ends naturally.”

For the most vehement advocates of prosecution, it has been an agonizing wait. Demjanjuk moved to the United States soon after the war, and was able to live quietly for 25 years before evidence of a darker past was unearthed. In the 1980s, he was brought to trial, but his conviction was later overturned on grounds that he had been mistakenly identified as “Ivan the Terrible,” a notorious sadist at Treblinka death camp in Poland. Only in 2000 was another investigation initiated; even then, nine more years passed until German officials issued a warrant for his arrest. In May of this year—some 30 years after the process began—he was deported to Germany, where his trial will begin on Nov. 30.

Given the passage of time, it may well prove to be the final major set piece in the intense six-decades-long process of bringing former Nazis to trial. As such, Demjanjuk’s pending appearance in court, after so many hurdles, is being applauded by some. “To have the last big Nazi trial in Germany,” posits Christoph Burchard, law professor at the Universität Tübingen, will “show to the world that Germany can do it.” Still, as the opening day looms, others are uneasy. The current image of Demjanjuk—aged, wheelchair-bound, and cancer-ridden—is far removed from that of the archetypal Nazi demon of popular culture. That gap was clear in May when reporters gathered at the Munich airport as Demjanjuk’s plane flew in, only to snag photos of a frail man being carried onto German territory on a stretcher. It was clear again when Demjanjuk was first brought to Munich’s Stadelheim prison, and transferred not to a cell but to a medical unit.

His family, fighting to have charges against him dropped, released footage that showed Demjanjuk moaning through a medical examination—clearly in a great deal of pain. The U.S. Justice Department fired back with secret footage of Demjanjuk walking capably and getting into a car unaided. Then again, everything about this case, and not just the extent of the accused’s currently frailty, is contested. Demjanjuk, a former Red Army soldier who was captured by the Germans, says he was nothing more than a prisoner of war. The authorities claim he volunteered to serve as a Nazi concentration camp guard—and that justice should be served no matter how much time has passed.

But for others, the gravity of the charges is not enough to justify this legal process. To these critics, the trial of the near-decrepit John Demjanjuk—who slumped down in his wheelchair and breathed heavily through a nasal tube as the charges against him were read in court—is bringing a once-purposeful legal process to a pathetic end.

That an era is drawing to a close is not in doubt; the passage of 60 years has made sure of that. There will be other trials: three alleged ex-Nazis, for instance, were recently indicted by Spain for their role as concentration camp guards. But time is running out. “Back then—an impossibly long time ago—these men who are now pushing 90 were in charge of keeping ‘peace and quiet’ in the slaughterhouse of world history,” wrote the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung. “Today they’re fragile, doddering and deaf.”

The stage was set in 1945-’46, when the first Nazi trials opened in Nuremberg, Germany. The first of the series of tribunals, orchestrated by the Allies, brought charges against 24 of the most important surviving Nazis—like Albert Speer, minister of armaments and one of Hitler’s closest friends. It also marked the first time that war criminals were tried before an international tribunal. For this reason, Nuremberg is often seen as the birthplace of modern international law. Only through those trials did the terms “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” become legally significant.

But after the highest-ranking Nazis were dealt with, says Caroline Fournet, law lecturer at the University of Exeter, there was a kind of “pause.” Across Europe, the myth of the Resistance dominated, with many refusing to own up to their at least tacit collaboration with German occupiers. And within Germany, there was little enthusiasm among the public for turning friends and family over to authorities—not to mention the problem of the thorny political overlap between the Nazi regime and what followed. Reinhard Gehlen, for instance, rose to fame during the Second World War as chief of eastern front intelligence for the Third Reich. But after the war he was put in charge of the West German Federal Intelligence Service (BND), which he staffed with ex-Nazis.

In the ’60s, though, largely because of Israeli efforts, the process picked up steam. “Many scholars,” says Fournet, “have identified the Eichmann trial as the turning point.” Adolf Eichmann, known as “the architect of the Holocaust,” managed the logistics of the Final Solution: namely, he scheduled the trains carrying Jews to extermination camps. In 1960, Israeli Nazi-hunters found him in Argentina and brought him to Israel, where he was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes—and hung in 1962.

The Eichmann trial, Fournet says, set the bar for what would not be accepted as a valid courtroom defence. The crux of Eichmann’s argument was that he had indeed committed crimes—but only because he was following orders. Since that defence was rejected in Eichmann’s trial, says Fournet, it has rarely been accepted. The trial was also a landmark in the establishment of “universal jurisdiction” over genocide. Eichmann was a German whose crimes were committed before the state of Israel even came into existence. But the Israeli court ruled that Nazi crimes were violations not only of state, but of international law; thus, Israel deemed itself competent to try him—a precedent that held.

Germany soon started to prosecute former Nazis as well, beginning with the Auschwitz trials of 1963-’65 that saw 22 ex-guards and officials from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex brought to justice. At the vanguard of this homegrown crusade was Germany’s Central Office for the Investigation of Nationalist Socialist War Crimes, set up in 1958 (it would later build the unfolding case against Demjanjuk).

Still, many of the groundbreaking Nazi prosecutions—of Eichmann, Klaus Barbie, Maurice Papon—were conducted by foreign courts. This is why, for some, Demjanjuk’s November trial is a token of a broader shift. “Germany has really changed,” says Michael Scharf. “It has a new interest in prosecuting war criminals—not just from the Nazi era but also Rwandans and Cambodians and Sierra Leoneans and Bosnians.” Adds David Crowe, professor of history at Elon University in North Carolina and president emeritus of the Association for the Study of Nationalities at Columbia University: “A lot of it is generational. Older Germans wanted to dismiss their wartime legacy. The younger generation of Germans want not to forget.”

But after more than 60 years of prosecutions, what remains? In a strictly legalistic sense, the relevance of further trials is waning; with so many having taken place, they are unlikely to set new legal precedents. The trials have also lost much of their symbolic aura, and many have come and gone quietly—such as that of Josef Scheungraber, found guilty in August for the murder of 10 civilians in June 1944. Much of the hype around Demjanjuk centres on his much-touted new title, No. 1 on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of most-wanted Nazi criminals.

“That’s me—I said that,” laughs Efraim Zuroff in Jerusalem, the SWC’s chief Nazi-hunter. “I’m the Simon Wiesenthal Center.” He speaks playfully of his title, but Zuroff is indeed charged with the weighty task of ranking targets for the Jewish human rights organization. But Nazi-hunting has “dropped low on the priority list” of the SWC, says Zuroff. His annual budget, he estimates, including “the office, salaries, everything,” is $200,000. “Believe me, it’s a very modest sum.” Zuroff describes his traditional work, which helped bring hundreds of Nazis to trial, as “one-third detective, one-third historian, one-third political lobbyist.” Now he spends far less time searching for Nazis, and more time urging reticent governments to prosecute Nazis who have already been located. “There are some cases where I’m 100 per cent political lobbyist. Because that’s all I can do.”

The oft-quoted tenet of Zuroff’s work is, “The passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the killers.” Overall, though, justice has often not been done. Many cases against ex-Nazis and collaborators were never carried through to a conviction. According to the German central office, it has conducted over 113,000 preliminary interviews; of those, only 7,377 have been passed along to prosecution services. Christoph Safferling, director of the Research and Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials at Philipps-Universität Marburg, estimates that around 6,400 have been convicted.

Some now argue that the whole process should be put to rest. For these critics, trying old men for half-century-old crimes is simply an exercise in futility. “If he’d been Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka then he would have been somebody pretty special,” says Christopher Browning, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But a guy who worked in a series of camps in which we don’t know what he really did?” Others identify more pressing concerns. During the 1994 French trial of Paul Touvier, charged with ordering seven Jews murdered in 1944, France’s intellectual elite rallied against the indictment, insisting that a trial involving the wartime Vichy regime would divert attention away from contemporary war crimes in Yugoslavia. “What good does it do to express one’s disgust over Vichy,” wrote philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, when the French are “Vichyites in our dealings with the victims in Yugoslavia?”

And, clearly, the process is no longer driven by any popular outcry. “I don’t think the people are asking for it,” Efraim Zuroff concedes of the Demjanjuk trial. “I think people in Germany recognize the importance and they’re in favour of it, but it’s not as if there’s a groundswell of popular opinion.” So why now—especially given that, according to Zurroff, Germany could have taken charge of the Demjanjuk file years ago? “I presume it was a political decision,” says Christoph Burchard. “To have the last big Nazi trial in Germany.”

The man at the centre of this “last great Nazi trial” was born as Ivan (later John) Demjanjuk in 1920 in Ukraine. Since most of Ukraine had become a Soviet republic after the First World War, Demjanjuk was drafted into the Red Army to fight against the Germans in the Second World War. “You had no choice,” explains David Crowe. “If you were a young male, you were forced to participate.” In 1942, he was captured and became a German prisoner of war. And that, says Demjanjuk, is where the story ends. In his version, he simply languished during his wartime years as one of many German POWs.

Evidence suggests otherwise. According to prosecutors, Demjanjuk was sent to an SS training camp in Trawniki, Poland, after volunteering to work as a guard for the Nazis, who were then well on their way to killing most of Poland’s three million Jews. Later, he served at three German-run camps on Polish soil. One of them was the Sobibor death camp, described by the U.S Office for Special Investigations as “as close an approximation of hell as has ever been created on this planet.”

Did he have a choice? Crowe, for one, cautions those who defend Demjanjuk’s alleged defection to the Nazis on the basis that he may have been coerced. POWs suffered extreme brutality in German hands, Crowe concedes, but Demjanjuk “had a choice. There were an awful lot of Russian and Ukrainian POWs who did not volunteer. You had to make a substantial moral decision to be a turncoat against your own side.” Crowe says that Demjanjuk willingly underwent aggressive Nazi training, and continued working at Sobibor—rather than escaping, as others did. “He was both victim and participant in German war crimes,” the Berliner Zeitung has written. “But that doesn’t excuse him.”

After the war, Demjanjuk registered as a “displaced person” in Germany. In 1952, he immigrated with his wife and young daughter to the U.S. Soon, the new Americans settled into a quiet suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, and Demjanjuk found work as a mechanic at a Ford auto plant. He had another daughter and a son. Twenty-five years passed before the tide turned—and what followed was messy. “This is one of the most bizarre cases in legal history,” insists Scharf. “It’s a textbook case that I teach in my criminal law class of everything that can possibly go wrong in a trial.”

In 1975, Michael Hanusiak, editor of the New York-based Ukrainian Daily News, compiled a list of Ukrainians suspected of collaborating with Germans and presented it to what was then the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Demjanjuk was on that list. According to Crowe, the INS then turned to Israel for help. Israelis, in turn, made contact with Sobibor survivors, a number of whom identified Demjanjuk from an old photograph as Ivan the Terrible, a gas chamber operator at Treblinka death camp in Poland. Two years later, the INS filed the first charges against Demjanjuk, stripping him of his citizenship in 1981 and ordering him deported. In 1986, his last appeal was rejected and he was extradited to Israel to stand trial. In 1988, “Ivan the Terrible” was sentenced to death.

As it turned out, Ivan Demjanjuk was not Ivan the Terrible. And it was a thawing Cold War that granted him a short-lived break, when the collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in the release of files previously hidden by the KGB. New evidence proved that someone else was the more infamous Ivan. In 1993, Demjanjuk’s death sentence was lifted and he returned to the U.S. But only one year later, the Justice Department filed a new complaint. In 2002, Demjanjuk was denaturalized again, after a U.S. court accepted evidence he had served as a concentration camp guard. In 2008, his final appeal was rejected. And after German prosecutors decided they had enough evidence, including an SS identity card with a photo of a young, round-faced John Demjanjuk establishing him as a Sobibor guard—it was Germany who filed formal charges, issuing an arrest warrant in March 2009.

As well as bringing an alleged war criminal to justice, supporters of the trial also hope that it will “throw a spotlight on Hitler’s foreign helpers,” as the newsmagazine Der Spiegel has said. While the Germans, says David Crowe, were the principal authors of the Final Solution, they were not its exclusive agents: “There’s no way the Nazis could have formed [their] mass system without using [foreigners] who volunteered.” The subject of Red Army POWs becoming Nazi guards, he says, is “one of the non-topics in Holocaust studies that has not been dealt with adequately.”

Others hope the trial will bring attention to the Operation Reinhard concentration camps—Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka—where Demjanjuk served and of which no physical evidence remains. These were set up in Poland by SS-Brigadeführer Odilo Globocnik, after he was “found with his hand in the till,” explains Robert Jan Van Pelt, a historian at the University of Waterloo, and sent to Lublin to “redeem himself—basically, creating his own empire.” Hence the Reinhard camps “were outside of the general concentration camp system,” relying heavily on Ukrainian guards. Although Auschwitz has become the collective symbol for Nazi barbarity, more Jews were murdered in the Reinhard camps—about two million—than anywhere else.

Whether or not Demjanjuk’s case will cast light on lesser-explored annals of Holocaust history, it is clear that the upcoming trial will be legally fraught. For one thing, as Christopher Browning explains, German law makes a distinction between the charge of murder, with no statute of limitations, and killing, which has an expiry date. The lesser charge of killing requires only evidence that someone killed. But the German requirement for a murder-related charge, the only option open to prosecutors in this case, “is that it was committed with a certain mindset. It has to be committed out of a very base motive of hatred,” Browning says. Demjanuk has been charged with what Browning describes as “extreme accessory to murder,” but lawyers will have to prove that he acted with heightened cruelty. “How they are going to prove something like that for Demjanjuk,” Browning ponders, “I just don’t know.”

“Charges like crimes against humanity or genocide would be better suited,” offers Christoph Burchard. But such a category did not exist during the Second World War, so under German law it cannot be retroactively applied. In fact, the very grounds for trying Demjanjuk in Germany are tenuous. He was a Ukrainian who committed crimes in Poland, and Burchard stresses that while Germany has universal jurisdiction in cases of crimes against humanity, that does not apply to murder charges. To reinforce their jurisdiction over the case, Burchard speculates that prosecutors will try to portray Demjanjuk as a kind of “German public official.” That may be a tricky designation for an ex-POW working outside the mainstream Nazi machinery.

But the root of the problem comes down to the simple fact that time has muddied the evidentiary waters. Many of the lawyers involved in the trial had not even been born at the time of the war. And while witnesses will be summoned to Munich, they may not be able to specifically identify Demjanjuk. Indeed, as Van Pelt points out, Demjanjuk’s exact role at Sobibor can never be known; rather, lawyers will have to extrapolate from what is known, generally, about Ukrainian guards at the time. “These were very low-ranking people,” Van Pelt says, with no “nicely laid out contract stipulating exact duties.” Even the number of reported victims in the charge—27,900—is debatable: it conceivably includes those killed while Demjanjuk was not on watch.

When it’s finished, what will have been gained? From a historical and legal perspective, very little: “There have been so many Demjanjuk trials already,” says Van Pelt. “A criminal trial about what Demjanjuk did or did not do in 1942 and 1943 is going to teach us, if we’re lucky, a little bit more about Demjanjuk. But the trial will be a footnote in the historiography of Sobibor.” Adds Scharf: “The only thing that makes the trial unique is that it’s taken 30 years from the time he was first requested for extradition.”

The Munich state court has set 35 court dates, which are from November to May 2010. According to doctors who examined him, Demjanjuk can only appear for two 90-minute sessions each day. And so, until Nov. 30, the ailing Demjanjuk waits, reportedly in a spacious cell measuring 24 sq. m. “I honestly thought he would die in Cleveland,” professes David Crowe. Such a possibility weighs on Efraim Zuroff. “I worry about it every day that goes by,” the “world’s last Nazi-hunter” says. “I pray for John Demjanjuk’s health every day. Believe me.”




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‘The last great Nazi trial’

  1. Sir, while I duly note that the article rightly states that Sobibor was in Nazi-occupied Poland, a few sentences down the phrase "Poland's Teblinka death camp" is used. Such an expression is most unfortunate becasue it suggests to people ignorant of newest history that Poland was the organizer and/or teh administrator of Treblinka. As you know, teh Treablinka death camp was another German Nazi camp on occupied Polish soil. Such expressions as the one qouted lead many of today's young people to talk about Poles being the eperpetrators of the Holocaust. I would strongly ask you to change the wording in the internet edition. to reflect the truth.

  2. Without knowing all the details, I get the distinct impression that the prosecutors are trying to cook the books. After the passage of so much time I think it is probably impossible to prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt". From the article it would appear that the documentary evidence is ambiguous at best and of course eye witness are notoriously undependable at the best of times never mind 60 years after the fact (didnt eyewitnesses wrongly identify him as Ivan the Terrible in the Israeli trial?) At this point I think they may succeed in convicting him but suspect that that is more of a statement about the persistance of the prosecutors and the political instinct of the judges than about the weight of the evidence against him.

  3. Your comment in the article "a notorious sadist at Poland's Treblinka death camp. " is unfortunately incorrect. I understand the need to release information but due diligence is necessary to make sure it is accurate. Treblinka as well as other camps referred to in Poland were camps established by the German Nazis on occupied Polish soil. It would appreciated if you would correct the offending term and print a updated version to correctly portray the truth.

  4. How dare you to use expression " Poland's Treblinka death camp". During WWII there was no such country as Poland becuase Poland was occupied by Germany and Soviet Union. Polish government was in exile in England. Poland didn't exist at that time and anyway Poland never had death camps. Maybe you can find death camps in Israel but never in Poland.

  5. As a Pole, I wish to express my regret for the tone and contents of comment No 4 about alleged "death camps in Israel" . This statement is far out of line. Not all Poles are anti-Semites. Your unfortunate wording of "Poland's Treblinka death camp" not only implies Poland's role in the Holocaust which is not true, but also incites racists (who, unfortunately exist in every nation) to write such comments as the one above which honest Poles deplore.

  6. Based on the CBC and Discovery Nazi Rat Line documentaries (Google) clearly show individuals in governments of Allied countries, South American countries and other countries assisted fleeing war criminals over the years. Should these people also not be held accountable for helping hide these war criminals past the due date of their accusers. The excuse they offer was the need for spies on the labor unions for there fascist corporations possibly having the invested WWII pillage? The people that need to be exposed. So many have been allowed to escape, one more makes no difference. Those assisting the Rat Lines are the ones to be identified, but money talked.

  7. Note, not all the planners had justice served nor the mentors (Blood and Soil) of Hitler and his minions wanting the prior WWI Prussian boarders. The lists became available in 1947 and 1962.

    "The Wannsee Conference was a meeting of senior officials of the Nazi German regime, held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on 20 January 1942. The purpose of the conference was to inform administrative leaders of Departments responsible for various policies relating to Jews, that Reinhard Heydrich had been appointed as the chief executor of the "Final solution to the Jewish question", and to obtain their full support."

    Thanks to Wikipedia

  8. What about the murders of the more than 60 Nazi SA members on June 29 and 30 of 1934. Who paid for those crimes and why did Hiltler's judges escape prosecution?

  9. Katie Engelhart does write "Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland" and by connecting the dots scattered throughout this piece the careful reader will conclude that she does understand Nazi Germany was solely responsible for conceiving, building and operating the death camps in that part of Poland it occupied, along with similar camps in other occupied territory and Germany proper. So what's with "Poland's Treblinka death camp," (twice) "Trawniki, Poland," "three Polish camps," "set up in Poland," and "crimes in Poland". Even once would be unforgivably callous sloppiness, but with at least 6 instances it starts to look like a deliberate pattern.
    While Engelhart does mention the killing of Poland's three million Jews she ignores Poland's three million non-Jews who were also killed. With 6 million Polish people killed in the war and countless millions more tortured and dispossessed, perhaps Englehart and her editors can begin to understand the outrage of seeing the victims being made to look like the perpetrators. That's what makes this article beyond merely ridiculous the way it would be for Mcleans to describe Gitmo as "Cuba's prison" or "Cuban prison" or "in Cuba."
    The American Jewish Committee, vigilant against historical revisionism and Holocaust denial, warns that these "were most emphatically not "Polish camps". This is not a mere semantic matter. Historical integrity and accuracy hang in the balance. … Any misrepresentation of Poland's role in the Second World War, whether intentional or accidental, would be most regrettable and therefore should not be left unchallenged." <http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nl/content2.asp?c=ij
    The extent of historical and journalistic integrity at Mcleans will be gauged by your speed correcting all misrepresentations in the online article to the proper "Germany's death camp" and "German-occupied Poland," etc. If this appeared in print, a correction and apology is warranted.
    John Halucha
    Sault Ste Marie, ON

  10. A 1987 Maclean's cover story ("The Nazi Hunt") included profiles of the John Demjanjuk case by John Barber and Madelaine Drohan. Both writers assumed that Demjanjuk was guilty as charged, was indeed the "Ivan the Terrible" of Treblinka that his accusers claimed — and wrote up their articles with that erroneous assumption as a given. After the Israeli Supreme Court had ruled that Demjanjuk was not Ivan — KGB files from archives made public following the collapse of the USSR having identified the real "Ivan" apparently — Maclean's merely shrugged off its libel of Demjanuk as being of no account.

  11. The camp in question was of course built and operated by Germans in German-occupied Poland, and the only role that Poles played was as prisoners. I would like to believe that by using the expression “Poland's Treblinka death camp” the author tried to indicate the current geographic location of the camp rather then attribute the blame on Poland or Poles, however the expression is unfortunate, misleading and offensive to Poles as well as to the Holocaust survivors and to those who value historic accuracy. Such factual erroneousness during the 29th Annual Holocaust Education Week in Toronto is particularly irritating. Your immediate correction and acknowledgement of the error will be most appreciated.

  12. The treatment of Ukraine by the Soviets might explain what drove many of these guards into the pro-Nazi / anti-semetic ranks. While this man seems to have no remorse & probably deserves punishment, its too bad that Stalin's surviving murderers will continue to die peacefully in bed.

    • From your lips to Gods ears.

  13. Don't you all know that mcleans owner is a freemason. Of course they dislake all humans and try to destroy the world.

    • Is that "Ricky" as in "Trailer Park Boys"? Pull your head out of your ass!

  14. Please repair the article ‘The last great Nazi trial' as it wrongly states Poland's Treblinka death camp by which you mean the German death camp created and operated by the Germans to kill mostly Jews in occupied Poland. The problem is that your phrasing could be read to mean a death camp created by the Poles (i.e., it was the Poles who were responsible for this death camp and by extension the Holocaust).

    As Robert Kupiecki, Poland's ambassador to the United States said about such incorrect terms that they “imply that the camps were a responsibility of the Poles. Poland was never an ally of Nazi Germany and never had any collaborative regime. Between 1939 and 1945 Nazi Germany occupied Poland.”

    David Peleg, The Ambassador of Israel to Warsaw, Poland, stated that: "We, being Jews and Israelis, with reject resolutely terminology such as "Polish concentration camps". These prejudicial and erroneous phrases represent primarily testimony about ignorance and lack of understanding of fundamental historical truth. Every thinking man knows that it was the Nazis who selected Poland for central site for dreadful genocide of extermination of European Jews. On the Polish soil the Germans built terrifying camps where they systematically murdered 4.5 million Jews (including 3 million Polish Jews) and other nationalities including thousands of Poles."

    Please correct this error immediately. Treblinka was a GERMAN death camp imposed on occupied Poland.

    Regards

    Jan Niechwiadowicz

  15. You mention "to Poland's Treblinka concentration camp". Wrong ,supposed to be German concentration camp in Poland.
    You need apology, Do you know about Irene Sendler, in Polish Irena Sendlerowa ? She was a Polish social worker who served in the Polish Underground and the Zegota resistance organization in German-occupied Warsaw during WWII. Sendler saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto. You know there ,six million Poles were killed in WWII, half Jews and half Gentiles so all Poles suffered from German Nazi atrocities.

  16. Good Article but labeling John Demjanjuk as a Nazi is oxymoron. Only Germanic people could become members of National-Socialistic Party, not "subhuman" Eastern Slavs, who were starved to death or killed mercilessly by millions. It's ridiculous that the country who enslaved JD and made him involved in her crimes know tries to persecute him.
    Taras

  17. It is with great difficulty I can even attempt to empathize for John Demjanjuk and his "ordeal", when he expressed no empathy for the thousands of Jews he stood by and did nothing while they were tortured and eventually murdered. His family attempts to show that he is being subjected to pain while undergoing examination before trial, however, millions of Jews, Poles, and others were tortured under his watch. While it is in question that he participated (willingly or unwillingly) in any of the actual murders, he did not stand up for them and so I will not stand up for him. He deserves every physical and mental pain he receives, and despite his age or physical condition, he should pay for what he's done. There were people who stood up and fought for those who were unable to stand up for themselves, those in Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Sobibor and elsewhere and those people should be treated with dignity. Demjanjuk deserves not to be treated with dignity or caring, and in my opinion, deserves any distress brought upon him throughout this trial. Perhaps then, he can have an inkling as to what he partook in during World War II.

    • It seems your callousness is a confession, much more than has been proven against J.D. Apparently innocent until proven guilty carries no weight with you. I hope you both get what you deserve; it's confirmed you would then get worse, much worse.

    • Yes. It is easy to judge others when you live in comfort and in a peaceful country. What will you do to save your own life, should circumstances change? Also, all people should be treated with dignity and care, no matter what they have done. Love the sinner; hate the sin. People change. If Mr. Demjanjuk is guilty of those crimes, I hope over the years he changed to see that was wrong. If he is not guilty, as proven in the Israeli court, he should not suffer.

  18. If you look up Lehi/Stern gang, some of the jewish did terrorist attacks including assassinations of british and claimed massacre according to a jewish historian. Some of Lehi also tried to work with Nazis against british to get their jewish homeland.

    Lehi felt terrorism was acceptable because the british limited the number of jews that could move into isreal. Isreal today limits the non jews to a much greater extent.

    The isreali government gave every one of them who wanted an award, they were good "soldiers" fighting a war.

    Dresden, germany during last months of ww2, the civilians were targetted by bombers, the army barracks and oil tanks were untouched in a massive firebomb rain of death in one night, tens if not hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed, it is alledged the plan was to lure homeless people to dresden then kill them to demoralise enemy.

    Stalin and those who worked for him are alledged to have killed more people than the Nazi's did in concentration camps.

    Many died under Mao in china.

    If only the losers in war get the investigations 60 years later, what sort of message does that send? Don't do slaughter or don't lose war/surrender?

  19. When the South African prime minister, John Vorster, made a state visit to Israel in April 1976, it began with a tour of Yad Vashem, Israel's great Holocaust memorial, where the late Yitzhak Rabin invited the onetime Nazi collaborator, unabashed racist, and white supremacist to pay homage to Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Compared to oft-heard outcries from Jewish groups over even mild whiffs of Holocaust revisionism, no less remarkable was the bland equanimity both Israeli and Diaspora Jews also displayed toward the Vorster visit. Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi recalls that [The Israeli Connection, Random House: Toronto, 1987, p.x] "[f]or most Israelis, the Vorster visit was just another state visit by a foreign leader. It did not draw much attention. Most Israelis did not even remember his name, and did not see anything unusual, much less surreal in the scene [an old Nazi diehard invited to mourn the victims at a Holocaust memorial]: Vorster was just another visiting dignitary being treated to the usual routine." As a onetime Nazi collaborator, Vorster should, of course, have been arrested and tried once he set foot on Israeli soil – instead he was warmly welcomed by his Jewish hosts. The South African prime minister left Israel four days later, but not before signing several treaties between the Jewish state and Pretoria's apartheid regime. A denouement Leslie and Andrew Cockburn describe in Dangerous Liaison [Stoddart Publishing: Toronto, 1991, pp. 299-300]: "The old Nazi sympathizer came away with bilateral agreements for commercial, military, and nuclear cooperation that would become the basis for future relations between the two countries."

    The "lessons of the Holocaust," anyone?

  20. One of my three brothers, who served in WW11, had to bury bodies with a bulldozer in one of the concentration camps. He had nightmares for years. The dutch people, were starved to death, by the Germans. Stalin persecuted millions of people. There is ethnic cleansing still going on to-day, and all of it is ugly. Humans are responsible, for every devastation that has occurred on this planet. The name is corruption and greed, and it matters not what race it is, nor, what country.

  21. Hypocritical of US "Justice'" not to deport 77 year old self confessed Nazi war criminals like Jakob Tannenbaum for age and health reasons.
    Hypocritical of German "Justice" to grant German Nazi war criminals amnesty in ~1967 but prosecute non nationals instead
    US and German "justice" has sunk to the level of 1930's Soviet show trials driven by political agenda. Stinks to high heaven.

  22. Well said,Taras Chuprynka. This unfortunate was between the devil and the deep blue sea. I feel nothing but pity for anyone in his position.

    I understand most of the Jewish survivors of the death camps were enlisted by their captors as "helpers". Did anyone think to charge them with complicity to genocide? That would be grotesque. This too is grotesque.

  23. I also agree with Taras Chuprynka. It is unbelievable that John Demjanjuk, previously tried as "Ivan the Terrible" in Israel – the result of "mistaken identity (it was concluded that he was not "Ivan the Terrible"), is now facing a trial for allegedly being a guard at the Sobibor camp. He was not a Nazi – if he was a guard at this camp, it was because he was a POW and had no choice. There is no evidence that he was involved in any war crimes. So now Germany is prosecuting this "so-called Nazi". Many Ukrainians, including the late Metropolitan Sheptytsky, risked their lives to hide Jews from the Nazis, and many Ukrainians were murdered by both Nazis and Soviets (including my late uncle who was in the Ukrainian underground army) – are these perpetrators on trial? I agree that war criminals should be prosecuted but not without proof of war crimes (what ever happened to presumption of innocence unless proven guilty beyond a doubt?).

  24. Shame on Macleans for bigoted journalism. Deserving of the Walter Duranty Award and a CHRC investigation.

  25. So are the academic problems continue the unfinished work?

    This is what Wikipedia has to say and references the New Order, Goering's Green Folder and the Hunger Plan. As you will note this was all Nazi all the time employing Germans in the occupied territories. This was used prior to WWII against the Slavs as a fore runner re-establish the prior WWI Prussian boarders.

    Prof. Theodor Oberländer (1 May 1905 – 4 May 1998) who was an Ostforschung (Agriculture) scientist, Nazi officer, and German politician. From 1953 to 1960 he was a Minister for Displaced Persons, Refugees and Victims of War for the Federal Republic of Germany and is considered by some historians to be among the academics who laid the intellectual foundation for Final Solution.

    "Operation Barbarossa is still the largest military operation, in terms of manpower and casualties, in human history. Its failure was a turning point in the Third Reich's fortunes. Most importantly, Operation Barbarossa opened up the Eastern Front, in which more forces were committed than in any other theatre of war in world history. Operation Barbarossa and the areas that fell under it became the site of some of the largest battles, deadliest atrocities, highest casualties, and most horrific conditions for Soviets and Germans alike – all of which influenced the course of both World War II and 20th-century history."

  26. We condemn the following words used in the article by Katie Engelhart : "Poland's Treblinka death camp", "Trawniki, Poland", "three Polish camps", "set up in Poland" and "crimes in Poland". These words are not true and are offensive to Poland's good name.
    An uninformed person can wrongly associate Poland's WW II role as an accomplice to Germany and not as its victim.
    Since they appeared in print, we demand a correction and an apology in print as well.

    It is a historical fact that Poland was a victim of Germany's aggression of 1939.
    It is a historical fact that Germany, while occupying Poland, built numerous concentration camps on Poland's soil to exterminate Jews, Poles and other Nations in a deliberate, systematic and premeditated fashion.
    It is also a historical fact that Poles, like no other nation in Germany's occupied Europe, were being condemned to death on the spot for even the smallest gestures of help towards their Jewish neighbours, and many thousands Poles perished for doing just that.
    Only in Poland there was a massive initiative to save Jews called Zegota, undertaken by Polish Underground Government. It was through this initiative that Irena Sendler, a heroic Pole, was able to smuggle 2500 Jewish children out of Warsaw ghetto and save them with help of other heroic Poles (of those many were Catholic Priests and Nuns). Many Poles were killed by Germans when this plot was uncovered.

    We would appreciate that future articles would pay attention to historical accuracy and not slander Poland's Good Name as it happened this time.

    Sincerely
    Jacek and Barbara Stadnik,
    Mississauga.

  27. Stop the (unintended i hope) lies. German camps, not polish.
    Poland was the only country where for hiding a Jew, Germans would kill the whole family. And MANY Poles were hiding Jews.
    Thanks Macleans. Time to terminate the subscription.

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