WASHINGTON (Dec. 20)
A Justice Department official has dismissed new evidence purporting to show that convicted war criminal John Demjanjuk was indeed a victim of mistaken identity.
The official said supporters of the Ukrainian-born former Cleveland autoworker were trying to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of Israeli jurists.
He was commenting on the latest evidence, released Tuesday by Rep. James Traficant Jr. (D-Ohio), which he says supports Demjanjuk’s claim of misidentification and wrongful conviction.
Jewish groups here were equally skeptical.
Martin Mendelsohn, Washington counsel of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, dismissed the latest evidence. “Every time a judge reviews the entire presentation of evidence, the judge concludes that Ivan Demjanjuk is the man who the prosecution says he is, and that he committed the crimes he has been charged with,” Mendelsohn said.
The 70-year-old Demjanjuk, who was stripped of his U.S. citizenship and deported to Israel for trial, was sentenced to death on April 25, 1988, after a Jerusalem court decided that he was the brutal guard known as “Ivan the Terrible” who operated the gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp.
Demjanjuk is waiting for Israel’s High Court of Justice to rule on his appeal.
EXISTENCE OF ANOTHER MAN
Traficant’s evidence so far consists of a letter from Alexander Yemetz, a member of the Human Rights Commission of the Ukrainian Parliament, who said there was another man who worked at Treblinka who fits Demjanjuk’s description.
Yemetz’ letter was translated by the Cleveland-based John Demjanjuk Defense Fund, which is supporting the appeal.
According to Yemetz, the existence of another man, named Ivan Marczenko, was cited by Peter Honcharov Kazarovich in a transcript dated March 6, 1951.
That transcript was included in the court proceedings of Feodor Fedorenko, convicted in June 1986 and executed a year later by the Soviet Union for committing war crimes at Treblinka.
According to Kazarovich’s transcript, which named 38 “people like himself” who served at Treblinka, Marczenko “was born in 1919 or 1920, in which place I do not know, but he was Ukrainian, he served in the Red Army, fell prisoner to the Germans, then to the school in Trawniki,” a reference to a guard-training school in Poland that Demjanjuk allegedly attended.
In addition, Marczenko “was posted to the Treblinka camp, where he served as a diesel motorist — sending gas to the death chamber and took part in shootings of people,” Yemetz wrote.
Marczenko was tall, was of “straight stature,” had wide shoulders, had dark skin or hair, had a “round face” and a “long nose,” Yemetz wrote.
He said the connection can be seen in an affidavit given to Polish authorities by a Polish authorities by a Polish man at Treblinka, Kazimierz Dudek, which was included in the Israeli trial.
Dudek said he knew of an Ivan Marczenko at Treblinka, but when given eight photographs from which to choose, selected the picture of Demjanjuk.
The official added that Demjanjuk wrote on one of his visa applications that his mother’s maiden name was Marczenko, evidence that was put forth by Israeli prosecutors.
The official said that in the Israeli court, Demjanjuk said he could not recall his mother’s maiden name, which is Tabachyk, according to a marriage certificate provided by the Soviet Embassy’s consular division.
Telephone calls to Demjanjuk’s son, John Jr; his son-in-law, Edward Nishnic; and his Washington lawyer, John Broadley, were not returned.
An aide to Traficant had no comment on the Justice Department official’s rebuttal except to say that Marczenko is a common name for Ukrainians in much the same way the surname Smith is commonplace among English-speaking people.
The Justice Department official expressed concern that Demjanjuk could be helped by creating uncertainties in the minds of the Israeli jurists considering his fate.
“You never know what turn (the trial) is going to take next,” the official said.
“They dribble out all these things and they turn out they are not true. But for two months, you get uncertainty. They are just trying to show seeds of uncertainly. Since the Anglo-American standard (of proof) is reasonable doubt, they are trying to create some reasonable doubt.”