NEW YORK (Apr. 16)
John Demjanjuk, a retired automobile worker accused of complicity in the murder of hundreds of Jewish inmates while a guard at the Treblinka concentration camp in Poland during the Holocaust, was ordered extradited to Israel to stand trial for war crimes.
U.S. District Court Judge Frank Battisti, sitting in Cleveland, Ohio, placed Demjanjuk into custody and revoked his bond. The extradition was requested by Israel. It was stayed until May 1 to allow Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian, to appeal. A final extradition decision must be made by Secretary of State George Shultz.
Israel has sought the extradition from the United States of war criminals living in the United States under the terms of a U.S. -Israel extradition treaty signed in 1963. Under Israeli law, Demjanjuk could be executed if convicted of war crimes.
Demjanjuk, 65, of Seven Hills, Ohio, maintains that he was not a prison guard at Treblinka and that he was captured by the Germans and held a prisoner of war. He denied aiding the Nazis.
The Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations said Demjanjuk allegedly ran the gas chambers at Treblinka in 1942 and 1943 where some 900,000 Jews were killed. His sadistic behavior earned him the name “Ivan the Terrible” by prison inmates.
Demjanjuk came to the U.S. in 1952 and lost his U.S. citizenship in 1981 when it was determined that Demjanjuk lied on his immigration papers to conceal his war activities. Last year he was ordered deported by the U.S. immigration Court and the Justice Department moved to send him to the Soviet Union, a decision which is under appeal.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a statement saying Battisti’s decision “represents a significant step in the long process of making a man who operated the gas chambers at Treblinka … finally stand before the bar of justice.”
Israel has been seeking the extradition of Demjanjuk since 1983. Should he stand trial in Israel, it would be the first such trial there of a former Nazi since Adolf Eichmann was tried and executed in 1961 for his war crimes. (By Kevin Freeman)