Saturday, May 1, 2004
Court rules John
Demjanjuk was Nazi guard
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
CINCINNATI - A federal appeals
court Friday upheld a judge's decision to strip
retired autoworker John Demjanjuk of U.S.
citizenship, saying the government has proved he
served as a guard in Nazi concentration
Ukranian-born Demjanjuk, 84, insists he was a
prisoner during the war, not a guard. The
government has spent 27 years trying to prove he
was a guard and then tried to hide his history.
A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals upheld the 2002 decision by a
Cleveland federal judge who revoked Demjanjuk's
"We find that the plaintiff, the United States
of America, sustained its burden of proving through
clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence that
defendant, in fact, served as a guard at several
Nazi training and concentration camps during World
War II," appeals Judge Eric Clay wrote. "We
concur with the district court that he was not
legally eligible to obtain citizenship under the
Displaced Persons Act of 1948."
His family vowed to challenge the ruling.
Demjanjuk's age and deteriorating health would
make it difficult for him to withstand a process to
deport him, said Ed Nishnic, his son-in-law
and family spokesman.
"He's slipping. He's not well," Nishnic said.
"There are avenues that can be taken to prevent
that. That would be the last thing we would
The options include asking the full appeals
court to reconsider its ruling or asking the
Supreme Court to hear the case, Nishnic said.
"We will carefully review the court's decision
and take the appropriate actions in Mr. Demjanjuk's
behalf," Nishnic said by phone from his suburban
Demjanjuk's attorney, John H. Broadley in
Washington, said he hadn't had a chance to study
the ruling. "Certainly we're going to consider
(seeking a) rehearing. We're going to take a
careful look at the decision," he said.
Broadley said he hadn't looked into whether any
country might be willing to accept a deported
Demjanjuk (dem-YAHN-yuk), who came to the United
States in 1952 and lives in Seven Hills, was
originally accused in 1977 by the Justice
Department of being "Ivan the Terrible," a
particularly sadistic Nazi guard who ran the gas
chambers at the Treblinka death camp in occupied
Between 1942 and 1943, more than 850,000 Jews
were murdered at Treblinka. Ivan the Terrible was a
guard who herded the victims along the path to the
gas chamber, hacking at his victims to speed them
Demjanjuk insisted he was the victim of mistaken
He was convicted of war crimes and crimes
against humanity and sentenced to be hanged in
Israel. Demjanjuk eventually persuaded the Israeli
Supreme Court to overturn his conviction based on
new evidence that someone else was Ivan the
He returned to his suburban Cleveland home in
1993 and avoided publicity. His U.S. citizenship,
which had been revoked in 1981, was reinstated in
But the Justice Department renewed its case,
arguing that Demjanjuk was a guard at death camps
other than Treblinka. The government no longer
tried to link him to Ivan the Terrible.
Keys to the new case were documents kept by the
Germans and archived by the Soviet Union that
prosecutors said showed Demjanjuk was guard number
1393 and assigned to several Nazi death or forced
labor camps after he was trained at Trawniki in
His citizenship was revoked again in February
After the war, Demjanjuk was sent to a displaced
persons camp, where he worked briefly as a driver
for the U.S. Army. In 1950, he sought U.S.
citizenship, claiming to have been a farmer in
Sobibor, Poland, during the war.
Demjanjuk later said he lied about his wartime
activities to avoid being sent back to Ukraine,
then a part of the Soviet Union. But he continued
to insist he was not a camp guard.
He said he had been captured during combat in
the Crimea and sent to German prisoner of war camps
in Ukraine and Poland. He said he was forced into
the Russian National Army, formed to assist the
Germans in repelling the Allies.
Tens of thousands of Israelis watched
Demjanjuk's televised trial, which began in 1987
before three judges in a converted movie theater.
Hundreds lined up daily to attend.
During the trial, one Holocaust survivor
approached Demjanjuk and cried, "I saw his eyes,
those murderous eyes!" At times Demjanjuk blew
kisses to the crowd or mugged for the television
cameras, saying, "Hello, Cleveland."
He was convicted in April 1988 and ordered
hanged, but after a five-year legal battle, the
conviction was thrown out. The Israeli Supreme
Court said in 1993 that defense lawyers had raised
reasonable doubt that Demjanjuk was Ivan the
Terrible.Copyright 2004 The
dossier on John Demjanjuk