Former Nazi Guard John Demjanjuk dies at 91

John Demjanjuk, the Cleveland auto worker convicted as a death camp guard, died in a German nursing home.

Demjanjuk, 91, died Saturday at an old-age home in southern Germany, where he was free while he appealed his conviction last year in the murder of 28,060 people at the Sobibor death camp in Poland, NPR reported.

Demjanjuk, born and raised in Ukraine, was first identified as “Ivan the Terrible,” a notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp, in the 1970s.

In 1986, U.S. authorities deported him to Israel.

A court there sentenced him to death, but during bhis appeal process, the Israeli prosecution uncovered evidence suggesting that another man who had died in the Soviet Gulag in the 1950s was “Ivan.”

The Israeli Supreme Court ordered him released, noting however that substantive evidence emerged during the trial identifying him as a guard at Sobibor.

He returned to Cleveland in 1993, and resisted multiple attempts to strip him of his citizenship and deport him again until U.S. authorities deported him to Germany in 2009.

There he was convicted in May 2010 for his crimes in Sobibor, and was sentence to five years in prison.

Demjanjuk arrives in Germany

John Demjanjuk must be put on trial “as quickly as possible,” a German Jewish leader said.

Demjanjuk, 89, arrived Tuesday in Germany to stand trial for war crimes committed during World War II. His trial is likely to be one of the last such cases stemming from the Nazi era.

Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the courts were now in a “race against time.”

“All possible legal measures must be taken to bring [him] to court as quickly as possible,” she said Tuesday in a statement from her office in Munich.

Police in Munich confirmed Tuesday that Demjanjuk, deported from the United States Monday night on a medically equipped charter flight, arrived in the city at about 9:20 a.m. He was to be formally arraigned and taken to the hospital wing of Stadelheim Prison to await trial.

Demjanjuk, a retired autoworker, was removed from his suburban Cleveland home on Monday by ambulance and taken to the airport, accompanied by a doctor and nurse. Family members held up a floral bed sheet to block onlookers from witnessing his departure.

In March, Munich prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Demjanjuk, accusing him of serving as a guard at the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland in 1943 and being involved in the murder of at least 29,000 Jews.

Demjanjuk, who contests the charges, has lived since 1952 in suburban Cleveland. His later years have been spent fighting accusations of involvement in
wartime crimes against humanity.

In the early 1980s, he was accused of being the notorious guard “Ivan the Terrible” at the Treblinka death camp, but was released from jail in Israel after seven years when another Ukrainian was identified as “Ivan.”

The U.S. Justice Department charged Demjanjuk with being a guard at Sobibor and revoked his citizenship in 2002 for lying about his Nazi past to gain entrance to the United States His deportation was approved in 2005. Germany requested his extradition in March.

Demjanjuk fought the deportation to Germany, finally losing an appeal last week in the U.S. Supreme Court. His lawyers said he was too ill to make the trip and withstand trial.

Knobloch thanked the prosecutors in her home city for their persistence in pursuing the Demjanjuk case.

“This is not about revenge,” she said, “but about justice for a crime with which this alleged Nazi war criminal has been charged by the Munich prosecutors.”