TEL AVIV (Sep. 21)
After nearly eight years, the John Demjanjuk case came to an end for Israelis this week, as family members of the acquitted Nazi war criminal arrived to escort him back to the United States.
The former Cleveland autoworker, who was cleared this summer of being the brutal Treblinka gas chamber operator known as “Ivan the Terrible,” was expected to board a flight out of the country shortly after midnight Tuesday, and arrive in New York by early Wednesday morning.
But as far as the U.S. government and American Jewish groups are concerned, the case is far from over.
Holocaust survivors and Jewish groups planned to launch demonstrations in New York and Cleveland the moment Demjanjuk set foot on U.S. soil.
And the U.S. Justice Department made clear it would pursue all legal efforts to have the denaturalized Ukrainian native removed from the country permanently.
Arriving here Tuesday to whisk Demjanjuk out of Israel were his son and son-in-law. They were accompanied on their trip by U.S. Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio), a burly former county sheriff who said he would help assure Demjanjuk’s safety in the wake of threats to his life by militant Jewish groups.
His departure became possible Sunday, when Israel’s Supreme Court lifted a restraining order that had barred Demjanjuk’s deportation.
The Supreme Court on July 29 had over-turned Demjanjuk’s 1988 conviction and death sentence for war crimes committed at Treblinka. But until Sunday, it had barred him from leaving the country, while it considered appeals from Holocaust survivors and their supporters.
They argued that he should be tried for war crimes allegedly committed at other concentration camps, including the Sobibor death complex in Poland.
With Sunday’s ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the recommendation of Attorney General Yosef Harish, who had argued that a new trial would not be in the interest of the state and that a conviction was uncertain.
The decision provoked anger and charges that the court had damaged Nazi-hunting efforts worldwide.
AIRPORT PROTEST PLANNED
The way was cleared for Demjanjuk’s return to the Untied States on Aug. 3, when the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ordered the Justice Department to allow his return while the court reconsiders the legality of his 1986 extradition to Israel.
The Justice Department is allowing Demjanjuk into the country on a temporary basis under the attorney general’s parole authority. But it has made clear that it will seek to have him deported again for lying about his wartime activities during his original attempt to enter the United States.
Demjanjuk was also expected to face an onslaught of protests from Jewish groups.
On Wednesday, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Gathering/Federation of Jewish Holocaust Survivors planned to demonstrate at New York’s Kennedy International Airport as Demjanjuk’s plane touched down.
And Rabbi Avi Weiss of New York, president of the Coalition for Jewish Concerns-Amcha, said his group would demonstrate outside the acquitted war criminal’s home in Cleveland.
Jewish groups in Cleveland are meanwhile planning a demonstration at a public square in the city next week.
The demonstration is being co-sponsored by a number of Jewish organizations in the area, including the regional Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Congress chapters, the Kol Israel survivors group and local congregations.