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Demjanjuk’s citizenship won’t be restored posthumously, court rules

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(JTA) — Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk’s U.S. citizenship cannot be posthumously restored, a  U.S. appeals court ruled.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled June 28 that his death made the case moot. Demjanjuk died in southern Germany on March 17 at the age of 91. 

Restoration of his citizenship would have enabled his widow to seek Social Security benefits.

Demjanjuk’s defense attorneys had asked the appeals court to restore the former suburban Cleveland resident’s citizenship, saying the American government withheld potentially helpful material. 

A Munich court convicted the Ohio autoworker last year on 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland. Demjanjuk, who maintained that he had been mistaken for someone else, died while his conviction was under appeal.

His defense claimed that U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland violated basic fairness by ruling against Demjanjuk’s citizenship appeal without holding a hearing on a 1985 secret FBI report uncovered recently by The Associated Press. The document indicates that the FBI believed a Nazi ID card purportedly showing that Demjanjuk served as a death camp guard was a Soviet-made fake.

The government argued that the defense filing contained no new information in the matter and the court rejected the arguments on Demjanjuk’s behalf. 

"Over three decades, we have repeatedly rejected Demjanjuk’s challenges to the authenticity of the Trawniki card and fraud on the court," the court said, as reported in Haaretz. 

But the Supreme Court judges also said that they still believed Demjanjuk had served the Nazis, probably at the Trawniki SS training camp and Sobibor, and declined to order a new trial. 

Carole Rendon, first assistant U.S. attorney for northern Ohio, said she hopes the court’s decision puts the case to rest.

“The 6th Circuit confirmed once and for all that the real victims were the tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children who suffered and died at the camps where Demjanjuk was a Nazi guard,’’ she said in an email, reported by The Associated Press.  

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