WASHINGTON (Feb. 2)
Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio), who has long been a supporter of John Demjanjuk’s claims that he is not the gruesome “Ivan the Terrible” of Treblinka, says he has fresh evidence that the “real” Ivan is alive in Eastern Europe.
Traficant held a news conference here Tuesday while special court proceedings were continuing in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to determine if the U.S. Justice Department withheld evidence that another man, said to be Ivan Marchenko, was the so-called “Ivan” who operated the crematoria at the death camp.
“I believe Ivan the Terrible is still alive and is certainly not Demjanjuk,” the Ohio Democrat said as he released what he said was an original photograph of Ivan Marchenko (also spelled Marczenko).
He said the picture was part of Marchenko’s personnel file at Treblinka.
People in Jewish groups who believe Demjanjuk is truly a war criminal cast doubt on Traficant’s contentions.
This new evidence “fits into the pattern of Traficant’s repeated efforts to defend Nazi war criminals, specifically Demjanjuk,” Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said in New York.
“It hasn’t held much water in the past and I doubt it will this time,” he said. “It isn’t new and it isn’t evidence. The so-called ‘fresh evidence’ was released about a year ago by Traficant and was already in the court record,” Steinberg said.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said that if Traficant has new information about the case, he should share it with both the Justice Department and the Israeli Supreme Court, which convicted Demjanjuk of war crimes and sentenced him to death.
WILL ‘TAKE HIM TO ISRAEL TO STAND TRIAL’
Cooper said that all documents pertaining to Demjanjuk indicate “that this man was a Nazi war criminal.”
“Whether or not he was a Nazi war criminal at Treblinka or at the Sobibor death camp doesn’t matter. They did exactly at Sobibor what they did at Treblinka,” said Cooper.
About 250,000 Jews died at Sobibor and more than 800,000 perished at Treblinka.
Demjanjuk, a retired Cleveland area auto-worker who came to this country from Ukraine after World War II, was stripped of his U.S. citizenship in 1981, extradited to Israel in 1986 and convicted of war crimes. He is now on death row in Israel.
In addition to the photograph, Traficant said his own investigative team of six people has found additional evidence which it will provide to Demjanjuk’s defense team in Israel about Marchenko’s life after World War II.
He said that Marchenko moved to Eastern Europe, married a woman from Yugoslavia and was a KGB operative.
“He is still alive and should be brought to justice,” Traficant said. “We will bring Marchenko to America and take him to Israel to stand trial.”
But the congressman refused to provide further details or evidence of his charges about Marchenko’s activities and whereabouts.
The Ohio lawmaker said his investigative team will likely be able to track Marchenko down in Eastern Europe in two to three months.
Traficant charged the Justice Department with ignoring evidence that Demjanjuk is not Ivan the Terrible.
That issue is currently being investigated in federal court proceedings in Nashville, Tenn., under a special appointed master, U.S. District Judge Thomas Wiseman.
The congressman said he is preparing a brief on his investigation, which he will present to Department officials after President Clinton fills the post of attorney general.
The Justice Department did not return telephone calls on the case.