Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center here, has described as “justice” the conviction and death sentence for Nazi war criminal Feodor Fedorenko, saying the former Treblinka death camp guard received the same treatment in the Soviet Union that he would have received in any Western democracy.
Hier’s remarks came just days after reports from the Soviet Union indicated that the 78-year-old Fedorenko had been sentenced to death by a Soviet. court after pleading guilty to treason, defecting to the German Army during World War II and mass executions.
“Fedorenko selected the Soviet Union as the country he wanted to be deported to. He knew what to expect there and yet he felt confident that he could make his case,” Hier said. “The Center believes that in the Fedorenko case, justice was done.”
Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, echoed Hier’s sentiments. “Just because he fooled people for 40 years, he shouldn’t escape justice,” Steinberg said. “I think it’s important that even 40 years after the event, justice was served.”
BACKGROUND OF FEDORENKO CASE
The United States deported Fedorenko to the Soviet Union after seven years of legal proceedings in this country that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Here, he was convicted of falsely representing himself as a camp prisoner when he entered the country in 1949. He received U.S. citizenship in 1970 after concealing his Nazi past for 21 years.
In the Soviet trial, the testimony showed that Fedorenko served in the Soviet Army until Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. He then surrendered to the Germans and was later recruited as an SS camp guard, according to press reports.
Tass, the Soviet news agency, reported that Fedorenko committed his “most grievous” war crimes at camps in Poland: Treblinka, Stutthof and Belzec. Tass said he coerced people to undress and prepare for delousing but then forced them into gas chambers after taking all their possessions.
ACCUSED OF BEATING JEWS
But the trial focussed mainly on Fedorenko’s betrayal of the Soviet Union and the treason charges. Among the witnesses at Fedorenko’s trial were Soviet Nazi camp guards who told the court that they saw Fedorenko beating Jews on their way to the gas chambers and shooting other prisoners in concentration camps.
Fedorenko testified that “he had never beaten anyone or treated anyone harshly,” according to the press reports. He said he had only taken part in executions on two occasions and added “Jews were among my best friends both in the Soviet Union and later.”
Fedorenko is the first person in the United States extradited to the Soviet Union for war crimes. A total of 19 persons, including Fedorenko, have been deprived of U.S. citizenship since the Department of Justice began prosecuting them in 1979.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.