NEW YORK (Feb. 21)
A U.S. judge has once again revoked the citizenship of John Demjanjuk — but it could be a few years before the former Nazi guard is forced to leave the country.
The judge agreed Thursday with U.S. prosecutors, who argued that Demjanjuk, 81, had fraudulently become a U.S. citizen after the war by covering up his past as a guard at several Nazi concentration camps.
In his decision, District Court Judge Paul Matia in Ohio found that Demjanjuk “willingly”served the Nazis in four camps, and at one of them, Sobibor, participated “in the process by which thousands of Jews were murdered by asphyxiation with carbon monoxide” in the camp’s gas chambers.
The director of the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit said he is gratified by the ruling.
“John Demjanjuk outlasted nearly all of his thousands of victims. He outlasted nearly all of his cohorts as well. But he could not outlast this government’s determination to serve a measure of justice on behalf of those who perished,” said Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Office of Special Investigations.
Despite the conviction, deportation is not automatic.
Demjanjuk’s son-in-law, Ed Nishnic, said the decision would be appealed, and until appeals are exhausted, the U.S. government cannot deport Demjanjuk, who worked for Ford Motor Co. after the war and lives outside Cleveland.
During that time, a foreign country could ask for his extradition. Among the possible countries to do so are his native Ukraine or France, which lost thousands of Jews in the camps — Trawniki, Majdanek and Flossenburg, in addition to Sobibor — where Demjanjuk served.
Demjanjuk, now 81, formerly lost his U.S. citizenship in 1981 on evidence that he was the sadistic Nazi guard “Ivan the Terrible” at Treblinka from 1942-43. Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel in 1986 to stand trial for crimes against humanity.
An Israeli court convicted Demjanjuk of being Ivan the Terrible and sentenced him to death in 1988.
He spent five years on death row before the Israeli Supreme Court determined in 1993 that there was reasonable doubt that Demjanjuk was the Treblinka guard. He subsequently returned to the United States.
Following the Israeli Supreme Court’s reversal, the Office of Special Investigations was criticized by a U.S. appellate court for “reckless” withholding of evidence that Demjanjuk could have used to fight extradition.
In 1998, the U.S. District Court in Cleveland threw out the original denaturalization order and reinstated Demjanjuk’s U.S. citizenship. But it said the government could reinstate denaturalization proceedings if the evidence warranted it. As a result, the new case against him that charged him not with being Ivan the Terrible, but simply with having been a concentration camp guard.
Since proceedings began against him 25 years ago, Demjanjuk has maintained that he did not serve as a guard at any concentration or death camp.
He has said he was a farmer in Poland and then a Soviet Red Army soldier who spent most of the war in a German prisoner-of-war camp.