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U.S. Court Orders Alleged Former Nazi Death Camp Guard Extradited to Israel to Stand Trial

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A federal appeals court in Cincinnati today ordered that allegea former Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk be extradited to Israel to stand trial for crimes committed during the Holocaust. It was not immediately clear whether an appeal will be filed with the Supreme Court.

The court’s ruling affirmed a lower court decision reached last April by U.S. District Court Judge Frank Battisti. Israel has issued a formal extradition request for Demjanjuk, though a final decision on extradition must be made by Secretary of State George Shultz.

Neal Sher, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in Washington today that the Department “will nove as expeditiously as possible” to extradite Demjanjuk to Israel. Without setting any timetable, Sher said, “it could be done very quickly.”

The 65-year-old retired automobile worker allegedly served as a guard at the Treblinka concentration camp in Poland in 1942-43, according to charges filed by the OSI. His sadistic behavior there earned him the name “Ivan the terrible” by prison inmates.

Demjanjuk is accused of having run the gas chambers at Treblinka. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed at Treblinka. Demjanjuk maintains that he was not a prison guard at the death camp but that he was captured by the Germans and held as a prisoner of war. He denied aiding the Nazis.

ISRAEL HAS SOUGHT EXTRADITION

Israel has sought extradition from the United States of war criminals living in the U.S. under the terms of a U.S. -Israel extradition treaty signed in 1963. Under Israeli law, Demjanjuk could be executed if convicted fo war crimes.

Should the alleged war criminal face a 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.

Demjanjuk, who resides in Seven Hills, Ohio, came to the U.S. in 1952 and was stripped of his citizenship in 1981 when it was determined that he had lied on his immigration papers to conceal his wartime activities. In 1984, he was ordered deported by the U.S. Immigration Court, and the Justice Department moved to send him to the Soviet Union, a decision under appeal.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center hailed the court’s ruling today, and said it was certain that “unlike the victims of the Nazi terror, Demjanjuk’s rights–like Adolf Eichmann before him — will be assured by Israel’s democratic system of justice.”

“This represents a significant step in the long process of making a man who operated the gas chambers at Treblinka, one of Nazi Germany’s largest death camps, finally stand before the bar of justice,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center.

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