Demjanjuk Convicted in War-Crimes Trial
An Israeli court today convicted John Demjanjuk of Nazi war crimes, ruling that the retired Ohio auto worker was the sadistic “Ivan the Terrible” who sent hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths in World War II.
“We determine decisively and without hesitation or doubt that the accused John Demjanjuk who is on trial before us, is Ivan, known as ‘Ivan the Terrible,’ the operator of gas chambers,” presiding Judge Dov Levine said in a summation that lasted more than six hours.
The packed courtroom erupted in applause and police officers fanned out through the spectators as Levine read out the verdict.
Demjanjuk, who was extradited from the United States in 1986, had insisted repeatedly that he was a victim of mistaken identity.
Not in Courtroom
Demjanjuk was not in the courtroom as the verdict was read. Earlier, wincing in pain, he was carried feet first to a cell next to the courtroom to hear the verdict. His family said he was suffering from back pain.
The three-judge court convicted the 68-year-old Demjanjuk of all four counts against him: war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity and crimes against persecuted people.
He will be sentenced April 25 and could face the death penalty. Observers have said it was more likely that he would receive a life prison term. Defense attorneys have said they would appeal.
Demjanjuk was the second person to be convicted of war crimes in Israel. Adolf Eichmann, architect of Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution” for the extermination of European Jewry, was convicted and hanged in 1962, the only person to have been executed in Israel’s 40-year history.
In their lengthy summation, the judges rejected key defense arguments and said Demjanjuk’s testimony was “filled with inconsistent versions.”
The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk was charged with war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people and crimes against humanity for allegedly operating gas chambers that killed 850,000 Jews at the Treblinka death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1942 and 1943.
Levine indicated during his summation that the judges gave great weight to the testimony of five survivors who identified Demjanjuk as “Ivan the Terrible.”
“These experiences are deeply ingrained on their memories, the horrors are a deep part of them, the sights are before their eyes and the stories are true and accurate,” Levine said.
The question of identity had been key during the 14-month trial. Demjanjuk denied being “Ivan” and defense attorneys questioned the memory of survivors.