Holocaust survivors blast Demjanjuk charade
Sobibor death camp survivors, journalists and lawyers witness a much more active John Demjanjuk outside the courtroom than during the trial.Munich – Holocaust survivors on Tuesday accused John Demjanjuk of faking the gravity of his illness to seek sympathy ahead of the first harrowing testimony on the killing of tens of thousands of Jews at the Sobibor death camp.
A lawyer for the alleged Nazi guard -- who faces charges of assisting in the gas chamber murder of 29,700 camp inmates -- in turn hit out at what he calls "double standards" in German justice by bringing action against a lowly soldier who did not give the orders.
Demjanjuk was pushed into his trial on Monday moaning in a wheelchair and later carried in on a stretcher. But at the end of the day he was seen laughing and joking.
Journalists and lawyers also witnessed an apparently much more active Demjanjuk outside the courtroom.
"I am sure he is faking his condition," said Thomas Blatt, an 82-year-old Sobibor survivor from the Netherlands camp who is to give testimony at Demjanjuk's trial.
"Yesterday the doctor said he was better now than he was in the United States," Blatt told reporters as he queued for Tuesday's hearing devoted to the formal reading of charges and the first testimony from survivors and relatives of those killed at the camp in occupied Poland.
The family of the 89-year-old Demjanjuk, who denies ever being at Sobibor, said he suffers from leukaemia and other illnesses and that he will probably not survive the trial in Munich.
"Given his now confirmed grave medical condition and his resulting inability to fully defend himself, it is farcical for anyone to say he is fit for trial and malpractice for any doctor to recommend it," his son John Demjanjuk junior said in a statement.
But Christoph Nerl, a specialist in blood diseases, told the court that Demjanjuk has a lesser complaint "which is definitely not leukaemia" and that Demjanjuk was "in a low-risk group."
Efraim Zuroff, head of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, said: "It's a pathetic attempt to appear more crippled than he is. He belongs in Hollywood."
"People like Demjanjuk don't deserve any sympathy because he had no sympathy for his victims," he said.
Demjanjuk is accused of helping to kill 27,900 people while he was a guard at Sobibor in 1943. Prosecutors say they have an SS identity card bearing his name and transfer orders.
Demjanjuk's defence lawyer Ulrich Busch argued that the case is a farce because German SS members -- Demjanjuk was born in Ukraine and was taken prisoner while in the Soviet Red Army -- were acquitted in earlier trials.
"How can it be that those who gave the orders can have been innocent?" he said, attacking what he called the German justice system's "double standards".
Some of the 30 or so plaintiffs in the case, either Sobibor survivors or who lost family members there, were to begin giving testimony on Tuesday.
There are no living eyewitnesses who can attest to seeing Demjanjuk there, so prosecutors will rely heavily on written testimony by people now dead, and accounts from survivors saying that as a guard, he had blood on his hands.
"The guards were all murderers," Robert Franzman, a Dutch plaintiff, told reporters on Monday.
Demjanjuk said he was captured in 1942 by the Germans and then moved around various prisoner-of-war camps, but Israeli and US courts have already established he was at Sobibor.
If convicted, Demjanjuk will almost certainly spend the rest of his days behind bars. If not, he will face an uncertain future as he is stateless, having been stripped of his US citizenship.
Demjanjuk was sentenced to death in Israel in 1988 for being "Ivan the Terrible", a sadistic Nazi guard, but after five years on death row the conviction was overturned when Israel established this was another man.
AFP / Expatica