'Nazi guard' participated in Holocaust: prosecutor

22nd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

John Demjanjuk, accused in Germany of helping to murder 27,900 Jews during his alleged time as a Nazi death camp guard, participated actively in the Holocaust, the prosecution said Tuesday.

"Armed with a weapon, he transported the victims from the wagons, undressed them and led them into the gas chambers," said prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz, as he began summing up in the trial, expected to be one of the last of its kind.

"He participated willingly in the murder of 27,900 Jews," Lutz said.

There is "no reasonable doubt about Demjanjuk's participation," in the Nazi's genocide of the Jews, Lutz told the court in Munich, southern Germany.

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, who faces life behind bars if convicted, denies the charges. The prosecutor was expected to call for sentencing later Tuesday.

It is still not clear when a verdict could be handed down, although the court has scheduled hearings until May 12.

The 90-year-old entered the court room in a wheelchair, wearing his now familiar blue cap and sunglasses.

Two medical staff accompanied him and transferred him to a stretcher, covering him with a white sheet.

Joking with one of the medics, Demjanjuk took a small sip from a plastic cup and sat up on the stretcher.

Lutz sketched out the horror of the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland where Demjanjuk is alleged to have worked for six months in 1943.

He described how victims were made to undress at the double, their valuables stripped off them and the hair of the women cut.

"Some asked for it not to be cut too short, as they had no idea of the fate that awaited them," Lutz said.

Then, "around 80 people were pushed into the gas chamber, which was around four metres square (13 square feet) and hermetically sealed. Then gas was pumped into the chamber.

"This consisted of a deadly mix of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. After between 20 and 30 minutes, the people were dead," Lutz said.

Guarding the camp, said Lutz, were between 20 and 30 German SS men and some 150 foreign guards, who came "mainly from the Ukraine," the prosecutor said.

He said that 15 prison trains arrived from the Netherlands during the time Demjanjuk is thought to have been at the camp, with a total of 29,579 Jews arriving there, including several thousand Germans.

Demjanjuk's trial has focused around two central questions: was he a guard at Sobibor in Nazi-occupied Poland and if so, was he in a position to have refused to assist the Nazi death machine?

"He was aware that the victims suffered physical and mental torture ... in addition he adopted the Nazi ideology of genocide," Lutz charged.

"At the same time, he did not flee the camp, although he had the opportunity to do so," added Lutz.

Since opening in November 2009 under an intense media spotlight, the trial has meandered slowly to a conclusion, with a myriad of stoppages due to the accused's health and defence team delaying tactics.

The accused has said nothing during the trial, often appearing asleep, sometimes emitting small groans. Constantly at his side are his medical team and a Ukrainian interpreter.

However, his lawyer has read out three statements on his behalf.

In the latest statement, he threatened to go on hunger strike unless the court admitted evidence the defence said would cast doubt on the allegations against him.

In the statement, he also dismissed the proceedings as a "political show trial."

© 2011 AFP

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