BERLIN (JTA) — A Munich court has issued an arrest warrant for alleged Nazi war criminal Ivan Demjanjuk, after months of investigations.
After months of investigations, the Munich city prosecutors announced Wednesday that Demjanjuk, 88, is charged with having been a guard at the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland from March 1943 to September 1943, and having been involved in the murder of at least 29,000 Jews.
The prosecutors said a trial would be held in the city’s highest court immediately following the retired autoworker’s impending extradition to Germany from the United States, where the Ukraine native has lived in suburban Cleveland since 1952.
"We are extremely pleased that the decision was made," Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and director of its Israel office, told JTA in a phone call from Israel. "We are only hoping the process can now be expedited. The longer it goes on, the greater the chances he will be able to escape a worthy punishment."
Demjanjuk’s son, John Jr., has argued that his father is not well enough to stand up to another trial.
With the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal last summer to bar his extradition, there appears to be no legal obstacle to the elder Demjanjuk standing trial here.
Demjanjuk was accused in the early 1980s of being the notorious guard "Ivan the Terrible" at the Treblinka death camp, but was released from jail in Israel after seven years when, during the appeals process, he could not be identified as "Ivan" beyond a reasonable doubt.
The U.S. Justice Department later reported that Demjanjuk had been a guard at Sobibor and was liable for deportation because he lied about his Nazi past to obtain U.S. citizenship.
The Munich court said it had relied heavily on material provided by the U.S. Office of Special investigations in making its decision to prosecute Demjanjuk.