WASHINGTON (Dec. 30)
The Justice Department has resumed its legal battle against John Demjanjuk with full force, filing motions in two Ohio federal courts against the man once accused of being Nazi death camp guard “Ivan the Terrible.”
In one motion, the Justice Department is appealing a court order that overturned the extradition of Demjanjuk to Israel. In another motion, the department is seeking to reopen the denaturalization case against the Cleveland auto-worker.
“Our objective is still to bring about Mr. Demjanjuk’s prompt removal from the United States,” Attorney General Janet Reno said in a statement Thursday.
“We want there to be no doubt,” she said, “that Mr. Demjanjuk served in Nazi death camps and concealed that fact when he applied to become a U.S. citizen.”
Jewish groups have fought strenuously against Demjanjuk’s return to the United States after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in July that there was insufficient proof that he was the sadistic gas chamber operator at Treblinka known as “Ivan.” In doing so, the court overturned his death sentence and cleared the way for his return to America.
“We are very pleased” at the Justice Department’s decision, said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress. He said it was expected in light of the Justice Department’s written promise to pursue the case “vigorously.”
“We hope that today’s filing will mark the beginning of the final chapter on the long road to justice in this case,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
TO BE HEARD BEFORE ENTIRE APPEALS COURT
The Justice Department asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati for a rehearing on its decision to revoke the 1986 extradition order that sent Demjanjuk to Israel.
That decision, made in November by a three-judge panel of the appeals court, also accused the Justice Department of committing fraud on the court by not submitting documents that cast doubt on Demjanjuk’s identity.
Jewish groups had called that decision “a tragedy” and urged Reno to appeal it immediately.
The matter will now be heard before the entire appeals court.
The Anti-Defamation League filed a brief Thursday in support of the Justice Department’s appeal. Among those joining the ADL in filing the brief were the American Jewish Congress, Hadassah, Jewish War Veterans and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
The government also asked the U.S. District Court in Cleveland to reopen denaturalization proceedings against Demjanjuk, who is now 73.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned that the Justice Department’s motion asked the court to reaffirm Demjanjuk’s denaturalization based on evidence that he served as a guard at the Nazi training camp in Trawniki, Poland.
Jewish groups claim Demjanjuk was a guard at other Nazi camps despite doubts about the evidence that he was at Treblinka. Israel’s Supreme Court found compelling evidence he was an SS guard at Sobibor, Flossenburg and Regensburg.