JERUSALEM (Aug. 1)
In a surprise move, Israel’s Supreme Court has delayed the deportation of John Demjanjuk for 10 days until it is determined whether an investigation should be reopened into his activities as an SS guard at the Sobibor concentration camp.
The move was made Sunday in response to a petition filed by a coalition of right-wing groups and Holocaust survivors calling for Demjanjuk to be prosecuted further.
Demjanjuk, whose war crimes conviction and death sentence were overturned by the court last Thursday, had been scheduled to leave Israel at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for his native Ukraine, which granted him a temporary visa over the weekend.
The Supreme Court found there was reasonable doubt that Demjanjuk was the savage guard, known as “Ivan the Terrible,” who operated the gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp in Poland during World War II.
But the court said there was ample evidence to suggest that he had trained as an SS guard at the Trawniki training facility in Poland and that he had served as a guard at Sobibor and other concentration camps.
Nevertheless, the court decided not to convict him on these charges, saying he had not been given the opportunity to defend himself against them. It ordered the former Cleveland autoworker freed from prison, and Israeli officials immediately sought to deport him.
HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS TRAUMATIZED
Sunday’s 11th-hour ruling to postpone the deportation was made in response to a petition filed by both the right-wing extremist Kach movement and a group of Holocaust survivors.
The petition calls for the prosecution of Demjanjuk for his alleged role as a Nazi guard at Sobibor, where some 250,000 Jews perished.
While the court is considering the request, Demjanjuk, who is 73, will remain in prison.
Meanwhile, officials in Ukraine said Demjanjuk could be subject to arrest if his name appears on a list of Ukrainian war criminals. They noted there is no statute of limitations for war crimes.
According to reports from the former Soviet republic, a small but growing group of Ukrainian supporters of Demjanjuk’s innocence have been demonstrating in his favor. Demjanjuk was issued a Ukrainian visa because of an anonymous invitation extended him from Ukraine.
His acquittal has profoundly hurt Holocaust survivors, particularly the five who testified unequivocally at his trial that he was the gruesome Treblinka guard they recalled.
AMCHA, the National Israeli Center for Psychosocial Support of Survivors of the Holocaust and the Second Generation, reported that in the hours immediately following Demjanjuk’s acquittal, hundreds of Holocaust survivors in Israel called special telephone lines set up by the organization to help them express their anguish.
“Demjanjuk’s acquittal adds anger to the list of emotions they are experiencing,” said AMCHA Director John Lemberger.