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Ivan Demjanjuk Photo: Reuters
Ivan Demjanjuk Photo: Reuters
 
 

Better late than never

The U.S. decision to deport John Demjanjuk goes far to right an Israeli wrong

Noah Kliger
Published: 01.02.06, 14:52 / Israel Opinion

Despite the fact that the story of Ivan Demjanjuk reached an (legal) end last week, it is impossible to write it off as the story of just one more Nazi criminal.

 

The story of the Ukrainian who volunteered for the German SS and served in various death camps in Poland is fundamentally different from similar stories of volunteers who served the German killing machine diligently and faithfully.

 

In contrast to other volunteers, Ivan Demjanjuk was sentenced to death by an Israeli court. But 15 years later, he is still not only alive but free, living with his extended family in Cleveland, Ohio.

 

How is it possible that a man sentenced to death by the State of Israel was not executed? The unbelievable answer remains with five Supreme Court judges, headed by former Chief Justice Meir Shamgar, who heard Demjanjuk's appeal in the early 1990s.

 

Relying on evidence that would be thrown out of court in a simple shoplifting case, the judges freed the Ukranian volunteer "because of
a doubt." They also said Demjanjuk served in death camps and took part in crimes against Jews.

 

There is no need to rehash claims made during the trial and appeal, but it should be noted that the three judges who sentenced him to death 15 years ago were some of the most senior judges in the country. The panel was headed by the late Justice Dov Levin, and included Dalia Durner and Tzvi Tal, each of whom subsequently was appointed to the Supreme Court.

 

But the five saints that heard the appeal in 1993 - Meir Shamgar, Aharon Barak, Theodor Orr, Menachem Elon and Eliezer Goldberg - overrode their colleagues and freed Demjanjuk.

 

'Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka'

 

Last week, Dalia Durner, long since retired, was interviewed on TV. She said she continues to believe with all her heart that Demjanjuk is Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka. It now appears that a series of American judges agree, and one after the other they have convicted him of crimes during the Nazi period, and have ordered his deportation.

 

In theory, he should be sent to the Ukraine, where he was born. If they won't take him, Poland would be a good option. It was there he committed most of his crimes. Or else, Germany – that's where he immigrated to the United States from in the early 50s, hiding (of course) his terrible past.

 

And if none of these countries will take him and he's forced to stay in the United States, that's fine. Let him die in the Ukraine or in Ohio – it makes no difference. The important thing is that different judges in the U.S. found him guilty.

 

Demjanjuk's Israeli attorney employed several creative "tricks" in order to draw out the appeal process, said the decision was "strange." What's he supposed to say? That the 1993 that let him off was strange?

 

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