NEW YORK (Feb. 24)
The Supreme Court Monday declined to review an appeal by accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk, thus clearing the way for his extradition to Israel, where he is expected to stand trial for his war-time activities. (Related story, P. 2).
Demjanjuk would become the first accused war criminal to be extradited to Israel. Israel requested the 65-year-old retired automobile worker’s extradition under terms of a 1963 extradition treaty with the United States. He could be given the death penalty if convicted of war crimes.
Michael Wolf of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations said he was not sure precisely when Demjanjuk would be extradited, although he assumed it would be sometime later this week. He said he believed Demjanjuk was being held in a federal prison facility in Springfield, Missouri.
ACTION ON ANOTHER ACCUSED WAR CRIMINAL
At the same time, in another development, the Supreme Court refused to review an appeal of a ruling that stripped an accused Nazi collaborator, Ser Serge Kowalchuk, of his U.S. citizenship. Kowalchuk, 65, a retired tailor of Ukrainian origin who lives in Philadelphia, is accused of assisting the Nazi-controlled Ukrainian militia in killing 5,000 Jews in a brickyard near his former home in Lubomyl in the Ukraine in October, 1942.
Kowalchuk admitted that he lied about his membership in the militia when he obtained entry into the United States as a displaced person in 1950, but insisted that he never collaborated with the Nazis as the Justice Department has charged. He maintained that he worked for the militia as a minor clerk and made out duty rosters. He became a naturalized citizen in 1960. He now faces deportation to the Soviet Union.
Demjanjuk, a native of the Ukraine, entered the United States in 1952 and became a U.S. citizen in November, 1958. He was stripped of his U.S. citizenship by a federal district court judge in Cleveland, who ruled that he had concealed his past war-time activities when he applied for U.S. entry.
The Justice Department charged that Demjanjuk served as a Nazi guard at the Treblinka and Sobibor death camps in World War II, where hundreds of thousands of Jews and other inmates were murdered. Witnesses have testified that Demjanjuk was known to inmates as “Ivan the Terrible” for his brutal treatment of prisoners at the camps.
Demjanjuk has maintained that he is innocent of the allegations, and that he never was at Treblinka. He said he was a Soviet soldier captured by the Germans in 1942 and held prisoner until 1945. His lawyers also contend that he cannot be extradited to Israel because U.S. courts had no authority to consider Israel’s request for his extradition.
In a statement accompanying the 1983 extradition request, Menachem Russek, an Israeli police official, said Demjanjuk had been a member of the Nazi SS and had “murdered tens of thousands of Jews as well as non-Jews.” Demjanjuk “committed these acts with the intention of destroying the Jewish people and to commit crimes against humanity,” Russek said in his statement.
BASIS FOR TRIAL IN ISRAEL
Demjanjuk could be tried under the 1950 law for the Punishment of Nazis and their Collaborators. The law calls for the death penalty for anyone convicted of committing a “crime against the Jewish people,” a “crime against humanity” or a war crime in World War II. Murder, according to press reports, is included in the definition of all three crimes.
The only person to be tried and convicted under this law was Adolf Eichmann, chief of the Nazi SS Jewish roundup operations. He was kidnapped by Israeli intelligence agents in Argentina, convicted in Israel and hanged in 1962 for his role in transporting millions of Jews to their deaths in Nazi camps.
The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center Monday hailed the Court’s decision not to review the Demjanjuk appeal and said he represents the “unrepentant mentality of the mass murderer who stood at the threshhold of the gas chambers. His extradition to Israel is a landmark decision since he will stand trial before the court of the people he was determined to remove from the face of the earth.”