Wednesday, April 15, 2009

John Demjanjuk Case

Who the heck is John Demjanjuk and why do you bother spending time posting a blog on him? These are fair questions many of my readers are no doubt asking. Mr. Demjanjuk, 89, is a naturalized U. S. citizen who has gained notoriety after being accused of car crimes related to alleged Holocaust involvement in World War II. I'm writing about this case because I see it as an example of the federal government wasting a lot of taxpayer moneys at a time when we're in an economic crisis, have a large budget deficit, and certainly have many other higher priority needs for funding that are not being met.

His is a complicated, long drawn-out legal case, but, born in the Ukraine, he is believed to have been a Nazi SS guard at the notorious Treblinka extermination camp in occupied Poland in 1942 and 1943, as well as at one or two other similar camps, and allegedly was actively involved in torturing and exterminating many thousands of prisoners, primarily Jews. He, his wife and a child came to the U. S. in 1952 and became citizens in 1958, apparently aided by the concealment of most of his activities during the war.

At the request of Israel he was deported to that country in 1986 to stand trial. In 1988 the Israeli court found him guilty on all charges and sentenced him to death by hanging. However, in 1993 five Israeli Supreme Court judges overturned the guilty verdict on appeal, based on doubt about the validity of some of the evidence brought out in his trial. Demjanjuk was then released and returned to the U. S.

In 1999 the U. S. Justice Department filed a new civil complaint against him, having to do with his guard jobs at two other Polish camps and one in Germany. He was put on trial in 2001 and 2002 and the court agreed that the Justice Department had proved its case, resulting in their ruling that Demjanjuk could be stripped of his U. S. citizenship. In 2005 an immigration judge ordered him to be deported to Ukraine. Demjanjuk appealed all the way to the Supreme Court but was unsuccessful. Then out of the blue Germany announced it would seek his extradition for trial there for his role in the Holocaust. But the latest is that deportation was halted and he has for now returned to his home in Ohio.

There is little doubt that Demjanjuk was a guard in several Nazi death camps during the War and participated in some horrible activities. I understand those who maintain that he should be held accountable, regardless of age. But how much money is the government going to spend on prosecuting and deporting this guy?? How many federal employees are going to be involved when they could be doing more important things for the benefit of the country? We should also keep in mind that he was acquitted in Israel of similar charges to those brought up in the U. S. and Germany. Furthermore, not only is he 89, he is extremely frail and highly likely would not survive what is believed to be a prospective two year trial in Germany.

Far too much federal money has already been spent on this case. I think the Obama administration should advise Germany that the U. S. Government has decided for pragmatic and humanitarian reasons to cease any further action against Demjanjuk, discourage any extradition, and let him live his remaining limited days with his family in Ohio. I would think Germany also has better things to do with their taxpayer Euros. This is also another case which demonstrates why we need reform in our justice system to speed up prosecutions and our appeals process to conserve taxpayer dollars.

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