Ex-Nazi death camp guard dies

2012-03-18 09:19

Berlin - Former Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk, convicted last year in one of the last trials linked to the Holocaust, has died aged 91 at a care home in southern Germany, police said.

The Ukrainian-born man was found guilty of more than 27 000 counts of accessory to murder from the six-month period when he was a guard in Poland at the Sobibor death camp in 1943.

An ailing Demjanjuk was sentenced by a Munich court in May to five years imprisonment, but was released pending an appeal before a federal court, having already spent nearly two years in prison.

The judge justified his release by saying Demjanjuk was no longer a threat and was unlikely to abscond, being stateless, after the United States had revoked his citizenship.

Police in the southern state of Bavaria said he died on Saturday in a home for the elderly in the town of Bad Feilnbach. Prosecutors would conduct a routine investigation into the cause of death, they added.

Cause of death

The prosecutor's office opened a routine enquiry into the cause of death, police said.

The US Office for Special Investigations, which investigates Nazi criminals, called Sobibor "as close an approximation of Hell as has ever been created on this Earth."

An estimated total of 150 000 to 250 000 people were exterminated there.

Demjanjuk vigorously denied the charges and appealed his conviction, arguing throughout the proceedings that he had been a victim of the Nazis, having been captured by them as a prisoner of war.

"My father fell asleep with the Lord today as a victim and survivor of Soviet and German brutality from childhood 'til death," said John Demjanjuk jun, who spent years defending his father in courts of law and public opinion.

"History will show Germany shamefully used him as a scapegoat to blame helpless Ukrainian POWs for the deeds of Nazi Germany," Demjanjuk, who lives in Ohio, told AFP in an e-mailed statement.


For Jules Schelvis, a Dutch survivor of the Sobibor death camp, the death brought some kind of closure.

"The Demjanjuk affair is over. Demjanjuk has had his judgement and he has died knowing that he will be judged again," Schelvis, a witness in the prison guard's trial, told Dutch television.

While there was no irrefutable evidence of his presence or actions at Sobibor in German-occupied Poland, the German court, in a landmark ruling, said it was convinced he had been a guard there, and was thus automatically implicated in killings carried out at the time, mainly of Dutch Jews.

During his trial, Demjanjuk denied recruitment by the Germans to serve as a guard in an extermination camp, but never gave details about how he spent his time as a POW.

After the war, he went to live in the United States, raising three children there and working in the auto industry.

Found guilty

But in 1986, he was hauled before a court in Jerusalem accused of being "Ivan the Terrible," an infamous Ukrainian guard at the Treblinka death camp.

Found guilty of all charges and sentenced to death in 1988, he was freed five years later when evidence surfaced suggesting Israel had got the wrong man.

One of the Israeli judges, Dalia Dorner, remained convinced that he was the right man.

"He was identified by 11 survivors, and a former SS, it wasn't possible to get it wrong," she told Israeli public radio.

Demjanjuk returned to the United States, but when new information emerged suggesting he had served as a guard at other Nazi camps, he was stripped of his citizenship in 2002 for lying about his war record on immigration forms.

Legal wrangling

Years of legal wrangling ensued and he was deported from the United States to Germany in 2009 to face trial, this time for being at Sobibor.

After his conviction, the two dozen co-plaintiffs in the trial - relatives of those murdered at Sobibor - expressed regret that Demjanjuk never showed remorse.

Based on the precedent set by the Demjanjuk case requiring a less rigid standard of proof, the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre launched a new drive in Germany in December to catch the last perpetrators of the Holocaust.

Efraim Zuroff, director in Israel of the Simon Wiesenthal centre that specialises in tracking down former Nazis, deplored the fact that Demjanjuk had died "in a bed in a home in Germany rather than in a prison cell."

French Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld welcomed the news of Demjanjuk's death, saying that "a world without Demjanjuk is better than one with Demjanjuk."

Richard Prasquier, the president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish organisations, said German authorities' pursuit of Demjanjuk to the last had been justified.

"A number of guards did the dirty work for Germany," he said.

Considering the horrors of the Holocaust, "it is only normal that we try to track down those responsible - it is not relentlessness, it is simply because the extermination of an entire people is extraordinary."

  • Anthony - 2012-03-18 09:43

    Great news ! Straight to hell !!

      Hugo - 2012-03-18 11:58

      ONE WAY

      Adil Smit - 2012-03-18 23:10

      Don't insult dogs

  • bluzulu - 2012-03-18 10:33

    These wretched B*st*rds live to 91 !!!

      Ian - 2012-03-18 11:22

      can you believe it, only the good and innocent die young, anyway straight to hell with him, i am sure there is aplace reserved for all scum like him eg african dictators

      Michael Stephenson - 2012-03-18 12:43

      Its very interesting how christians are always the 1st to judge and condemn.

      Boaz - 2012-03-18 14:43

      The reason that so many WWII-criminals reached advanced age was to prolong their terror & fear when looking across their shoulders to see if Mossad or some other organization wasn't on to them... Otherwise I cannot fathom why they got to live so long. Good riddins to bad rubbish. My only hope is more of his ilk leave our planet quicker.

  • Michael Stephenson - 2012-03-18 10:46

    Don't be so quick to condemn. Even if he was a nazi, he was a guard. Had he disobeyed he would have most likely faced a firing squad. This isn't a nazi mastermind. He was a guard for god sakes. I don't even see why this is news worthy.

      susan.greyling - 2012-03-18 11:03

      If you bothered to read some literature about the holocause you would know that guards inflicted horrific abuse on inmates every day.

      Ian - 2012-03-18 11:24

      because he took part in sending innocent people to there deaths so please dont put the ffffn nazi on a soapbox

      John - 2012-03-18 11:57

      Yup, not only just a guard but only 22 years old at the time.

      Hugo - 2012-03-18 12:00

      so what did he think when he saw innocent women and kids being sent to the 'showers'? straight to hell,the bastard

      Michael Stephenson - 2012-03-18 12:34

      Susan, you saying that every single nazi was a demon? That's like condemning every german. Or condemning every afrikaans person for the atrocities of apartheid.

      Jaba - 2012-03-18 14:24

      SparklingEdwardCullen to answer your question: When will this Jewish obsession end? It will end when scumbags like you and your friend Demjanjuk will no longer exist on this Earth. He must Rest in NO peace, he was not just a DEATH CAMP guard - Demjanjuk was 'Ivan the Terrible'. He was convicted in a German court of law on legal grounds. Demjanjuk now stands before the judge of creation where the deepest sin or innocence is clearly seen ...unlike mans courts.. eternal justice whether innocent or guilty Will be served. either way Michael & SparklingEd I am sorry you lost a friend. I can assure you that he is rotting in Hell together with your other friends.

      Anthony - 2012-03-18 14:28

      @Micahel Stephenson, You obviously , in the lasty few years, never watched any of the court proceedings, where not only, he showed no remorse, for what he had been involved in, but actually, even in his eighties , displayed his arrogance and sickening behaviour , towards the relatives of the ones who were murdered , under his 'watch' One less scum in the world, won't do any harm !!!!

  • Adam - 2012-03-18 13:04

    any person who did not feel comfy working in the death camps was allowed to transfer out to mobile infantry. these guys had no problems doing what they did.

      brian.enslin - 2012-03-19 12:07

      Adam you are 100% correct. Edward you are blindly ignorant of the actual historical facts of the time. John was not a Kapo. Kapo's were chosen by SS gaurds at various concentration camps, based on some criteria. The number one factor affecting that choice was whether the individual was a convicted criminal. Criminals were on top of the hireachy of concentration camp prisoners. They were not specifically trained or paid any money for their work. He was a Ukranian POW interned at the Trawniki Concentration camp. The SS trained approximately 2500 Soviet POW's as police guards. They were called Hiri. They were specifically trained and inducted as prisoner guards. These Hiri were then deployed to Concentration camps throughout Poland as part of Operation Reinhard. Completely different to the Kapo's that were chosen based on their status with individual camps and remained in that camp. Kapo's were never inducted within the prisoner system, but served as a functionary to maintain "discipline" and "production" at the "coal face" as such. You would do yourself a favour by reading "Ordinary Men" by Christopher Browning. He did a study on the Hiri on how those ordinary people became such brutal killers.

  • Sharon - 2012-03-18 13:42

    If I read the facts correctly there is a very good chance an innocent man could have been punished more than once for something he might/might not have done. "because he was there" is according to them enough!! Wonder how many innocent people have been punished by the JEWS? Not denying what happened but nearly 70 years later I think its time to get over it and go on. Consentrate on Iran rather.

  • Jaba - 2012-03-18 14:00

    good Germany is better of with you dead. rot in hell...

  • Hugo - 2012-03-18 16:57

    good riddance to bad rubbish

  • phathuchicos - 2012-03-18 17:11


  • Fanie Oosthuizen - 2012-03-18 21:53

    Who are we to judge? When I read the comments of the readers of news24 only one thing comes to my mind and that is hate. Why are there so much hate in this country?

  • DSBennie - 2012-03-19 07:53

    He was rightfully convicted of his crimes, but when will the allies be prosecuted for the war crimes that they committed, this was not a one sided war

      Jaba - 2012-03-19 09:52

      Was very much a one sided war. Hitler wanted to take over the world... and failed. All deaths, even atrocities blamed on the allies fall onto the hands of the Nazi's. Even the nuclear weapon that was used over Japan was justified in order to end this war. The Japanese themselves have admitted that if it was not for the Bomb the war would have continued.

      Anthony - 2012-03-19 12:27

      DsBenny, This must surely be the most dumb, stupid comment I have ever read re the second world war !!!!!!

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