Groups Pressing Legal Efforts to Bar Demjanjuk’s Return to U.S.

As the likelihood increases that Israel will soon be releasing acquitted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk from prison, leading Jewish groups and governmental figures are pressing their campaign to prevent the retired Cleveland autoworker from returning to the United States.

Here in New York, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) sought a court order Thursday from a federal judge that would bar Attorney General Janet Reno from allowing Demjanjuk to enter the country.

And in Washington, New York City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman met Thursday with U.S. Solicitor General Drew Days to urge the Justice Department to seek an emergency stay from the Supreme Court barring Demjanjuk’s return.

As a congresswoman, Holtzman authored the amendment bearing her name that bars Nazi persecutors from entering the country. She was joined at the meeting by Jess Hordes, Washington representative of the Anti-Defamation League.

During the meeting with the solicitor general, whose job it is to argue the government’s cases before the Supreme Court, Hordes presented Days with a letter from ADL National Director Abraham Foxman.

In the letter, Foxman, a Holocaust survivor himself, pointed out that both the Israeli Supreme Court and a special master appointed by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati found evidence of Demjanjuk’s participation in wartime atrocities.

“There is no question that he was properly stripped of his American citizenship,” Foxman wrote.

“Survivors like myself will not be able to watch television pictures of him and his family celebrating his return without feeling like we have been victimized by a Nazi all over again.”

NEW YORK LAWSUIT DISMISSED

The Justice Department, which had Demjanjuk stripped of his U.S. citizenship and extradited to Israel in 1986, has been fighting to prevent the former Cleveland autoworker’s return.

But on Aug. 3, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled that the U.S. government could not bar Demjanjuk from re-entering the country after his acquittal in Israel for war crimes committed at the Treblinka death camp.

The department is appealing the Cincinnati ruling to the full circuit court and has asked it to stay the three-judge panel’s order until that appeal can be heard. But so far, the court has refused to respond to the government’s almostdaily petitions.

Demjanjuk, who is currently being held in an Israeli prison, could leave for the United States as early as Friday, when Israel’s Supreme Court hears what is expected to be a final appeal from Holocaust survivors seeking to bar his departure.

Here in New York, Congressman Nadler’s bid to bar Attorney General Reno from allowing Demjanjuk’s return, which was backed by the American Federation/Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, failed Thursday, when U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand dismissed the lawsuit.

During an emergency hearing, Sand said his court had no jurisdiction to make a ruling on a case before the Cincinnati circuit court.

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