A measure of justice (NEW YORK POST EDITORIAL) 03/20/12)
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John Demjanjuk may not have been behind bars when he died last
weekend, but he stood convicted in a German court of complicity in
the deaths of 27,900 Jewish prisoners at Nazi concentration camps.
Born in Ukraine, Demjanjuk came to America after the war, became a US
citizen and raised a family in Cleveland.
In 1976, the Justice Department filed charges, based on the testimony
of Holocaust survivors, naming him as Ivan the Terrible — who
operated the gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp, where a
million Jews were slaughtered.
Tried in Israel and sentenced to death, he was eventually exonerated
by the Israeli Supreme Court, based on then-newly available documents
from both Soviet and West German archives. But the same documents
made clear that, while he hadn’t worked at Treblinka, he had been a
guard at other camps: Sobibor, Majdanek, Flossenburg.
The documents also shattered his alibi of having been a POW at the
But no one could testify that they had seen Demjanjuk commit murder.
Still, his role as a guard where Jewish victims had been murdered en
masse was deemed sufficient proof of guilt.
Demjanjuk was no Adolf Eichmann; he was one of the many mostly
nameless cogs without whom the Nazi wheel of genocide could not have
taken millions of lives.
He spent seven years in an Israeli prison before his release — itself
a measure of justice — and had his US citizenship revoked.
John Demjanjuk also spent the last 35 of his 91 years in one court or
another; he may not have paid fully for his crimes — but he was
nonetheless held to account. (Copyright 2012 NYP Holdings, Inc.
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