Germany’s Federal Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk to stand trial in Munich.
Demjanjuk, 88, also known as Ivan, may be extradited from his Cleveland-area home to Germany if prosecutors are able to build a strong enough case against him.
He is accused of participating in the murder of 29,000 European Jews at the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland, where he allegedly was a supervisor for seven months in 1943. Because 1,900 of his alleged victims were German Jews, and because he stayed in a Munich displaced persons camp after the war, Germany was legally able to ask for his extradition, according to news reports.
Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told a Munich newspaper she hoped the court would “do everything legally possible to speed up the process so that Demjanjuk can be held accountable during his lifetime.”
Demjanjuk was born in Ukraine. He came to the United States after World War II and became a citizen in 1958. He stood trial in 1986 in Israel, where he was convicted of having been “Ivan the Terrible,” a guard at the Treblinka extermination camp. He was condemned to death but he was later released when Israel’s high court was unable to confirm his identity.
In 2002, a U.S. District judge found that Demjanjuk had worked at more than one Nazi death camp. He has been stripped of his citizenship because he obtained it under false pretenses by lying about his Nazi past. In May, he lost his final appeal to avoid deportation.
Demjanjuk’s son John Jr. said in a statement Thursday that his father is too ill to travel to another country and to stand trial.
“Demjanjuk and all other Nazi war criminals who are still alive should know that there is no pardon for them,” Knobloch told the Munich “Abendzeitung” newspaper.