Convicted of serving as a Nazi death camp guard and in failing health at 91, John Demjanjuk still hopes he might be able to return home to Ohio, his son says after seeing his father face-to-face for the first time since his deportation in 2009.
In an interview with The Associated Press, John Demjanjuk Jr. said if a court battle in Ohio results in his father being given permission by Germany to return home, he would do so even before his appeal in Germany is heard.
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"Absolutely, immediately," Demjanjuk said after visiting with his father for four days at his nursing home in the Bavarian town of Bad Feilnbach. "We're Americans - Americans of Ukrainian heritage - and that's his home."
John Demjanjuk Jr. (Photo: AP)
Demjanjuk was found guilty in May on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder after a Munich court found that evidence showed he was a guard during the war the Nazis' Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland.
The case was the first time someone was convicted in Germany on the basis only of having been a guard, without evidence of a specific killing.
Demjanjuk Jr. said the family is now "very confident that we're going to achieve a hearing before the Federal District court in Cleveland" and also that his father's conviction in Germany will be overturned.
"We've been in this position before - he was convicted and sentenced to death not in Germany, but in the state of Israel and on the face of it on much more convincing evidence than Germany has ever seen - and they were wrong and it led to an acquittal by the Israeli Supreme Court," he said.
Demjanjuk in court after hearing verdict (Photo: AFP)
"If the appellate court in Germany takes an honest approach like the Israeli Supreme Court, it will be overturned - I'm confident of that," he said. "The bigger question is if my father will live that long."
Demjanjuk Jr. said the nursing home care has been fine but his father is isolated with nobody there speaking Ukrainian and only a few with some English, though a Ukrainian priest visits about once a month.
"He's got a walker and he uses that - as was the case before - and there are good days and bad days," he said. "All things considered, I think he's doing OK, but he was certainly happy to see me - it's definitely a difficult situation for him, he's alone there."
It took another legal battle, however, to ensure Demjanjuk still receives the medicine to treat his kidney disease, after Munich authorities said they would no longer pay for it.
The Munich decision was based on a state doctor's assessment that weekly shots of erythropoietin were unnecessary.
The family appealed the decision, and learned Tuesday that Munich city authorities had decided to pay for the medication after all.
Demjanjuk Jr. said he and his father talked primarily about the family and he shared photos of milestones that his father had missed, like birthdays, sports events, and the high school graduation of a granddaughter. He said his mother, 86, is in failing health herself and was not able to visit.
For the most part, Demjanjuk Jr. said his father remains stoic about his situation while steadfastly maintaining his innocence.
"He's not angry, that's the amazing thing... he just deals with things in front of him," he said. "He doesn't understand why he's in Germany and blamed for the deeds of others, but he's a survivor."
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