Demjanjuk: 5 years for 28,000 Dutch Jews

12th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

John Demjanjuk has been sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the murder of some 28,000 Dutch Jews at the Nazi death camp Sobibor in World War II.

But taking into consideration his advanced age and his inability to travel, the court decided that Demjanjuk will not actually be jailed.

The Munich court found the 91-year-old guilty of being an accessory to mass murder. The prosecution said there was convincing evidence proving that Demjanjuk was a guard at the Polish Sobibor camp in 1943. Demjanjuk denied the charge, claiming that as a Soviet prisoner of war, he was also a victim.

Ukraine-born Demjanjuk, who was once top of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of most wanted war criminals, said he was drafted into the Soviet army in 1941 then taken prisoner of war by the Germans.

28,000 murders Some 28,000 Dutch Jews were transported by train between 1942 and 1943 from the Dutch camp Westerbork to Sobibor, where they were gassed and burnt immediately upon arrival. It is estimated that at least 130,000 Jews were killed in Sobibor’s gas chambers some sources put the number at 250,000, but Demjanjuk was only charged for the death of the Dutch Jews.

The five-year prison sentence is one year less than prosecutors had requested. Demjanjuk’s lawyer, Ulrich Busch, has said they will appeal the verdict. It is not clear whether the Nazi war criminal, whose family says he is very ill, will get credit for the two years he has already served in custody. Demjanjuk was extradited from the US in 2009.

No final word, no response Demjanjuk attended the 18-month court proceedings in Munich – birthplace of Hitler’s Nazi movement – in a wheelchair, at times lying down, while his family tried to argue that he was too frail to stand trial.

Today, Demjanjuk listened in a wheelchair while the verdict was being read, without responding, his eyes covered by dark glasses. Earlier this morning, Judge Ralph Alt had asked Demjanjuk if he wanted to say some final words before the verdict was handed down. The former Sobibor guard answered with a terse “Nein”.

Victims welcome guilty verdict Relatives of the victims, who were co-plaintiffs at the trial, as well as the Simon Wiesenthal Center have welcomed the guilty verdict. “We’re relieved that he has been finally sentenced,” said director Efraim Zuroff in Jerusalem.

Demjanjuk had been exonerated in a separate Holocaust trial two decades ago in Israel, where he was initially sentenced to death for being the notorious "Ivan the Terrible" camp guard at Treblinka in Poland. The ruling was overturned by Israel's supreme court after new evidence exonerated him.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide 2011  

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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