Saturday, March 17, 2012

Convicted Nazi criminal John Demjanjuk dead at 91

By REUTERS AND JPOST.COM STAFF

BERLIN - John Demjanjuk, convicted last year for his role in killing 28,000 Jews at a Nazi death camp during World War Two, died on Saturday aged 91 in a care home in southern Germany, a police spokesman said.



A Munich court convicted Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk in May 2011 of helping to kill the Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. He was sentenced to five years in prison but freed because of his age.

Demjanjuk had been extradited from the United States.

Legal proceedings against Demjanjuk, a former Ohio autoworker who was born in Ukraine, unfolded in Israel, the United States and Germany over a three-decade period.

Demjanjuk has claimed he was drafted into the Soviet army in 1941, and then taken as a prisoner of war by the Germans.

His son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said in an e-mail before the verdict that his father was a victim of the Nazis and of post-war Germany.

“While those who refuse to accept that reality may take satisfaction from this event, nothing the Munich court can do will atone for the suffering Germany has perpetrated upon him to this day,” he said.

Prosecutors had faced several hurdles in proving Demjanjuk’s guilt, with no surviving witnesses to his crimes and heavy reliance on wartime documents, notably a Nazi ID card that defense attorneys said was a fake made by the Soviets.

Guards at Nazi death camps such as Sobibor were essential to the mass killing of Jews because extermination was the focus of such facilities, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Busch told the court that even if Demjanjuk did become a prison guard, he did so only because as a prisoner of war he would otherwise have either been shot by the Nazis or died of starvation.

Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this report.

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