Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Document Identification Expert Says Id Card Bearing Signature and Photo of Demjanjuk is Authentic

April 23, 1987
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The head of the Israeli police document identification laboratory testified Tuesday that an SS identification card bearing the signature and photograph of suspected war criminal John Demjanjuk is authentic.

Amnon Bezaleli appeared for the prosecution in Jerusalem district court as the Demjanjuk trial resumed after the Passover recess. He said there was “no doubt whatever” of the signature of Karl Streibel, commandant of the Trawniki camp where Demjanjuk allegedly was trained for guard duty at Treblinka.

As for Demjanjuk’s signature, there is only “an extremely slight possibility” that it was forged, Bezaleli said. He said he had compared it with Demjanjuk’s signature on numerous documents he signed over the years and discerned an “inner authenticity” but could “not definitely” determine it was signed by the accused.

The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, a former resident of Cleveland, Ohio, has been identified by a number of Treblinka survivors as the sadistic guard known as “Ivan the Terrible” who ran the gas chambers at the death camp and brutally assaulted inmates. Demjanjuk contends he was a German prisoner during most of World War II, that he was never anywhere near Treblinka and is a victim of mistaken identity.

The ID card, which Israel obtained from the Soviet Union, has been called a forgery by Demjanjuk’s lawyers. Bezaleli told the court he could not be more definite about the signature because it is in Russian Cyrillic script. He explained, however, that he could discern changes in the way Demjanjuk shaped letters–even in Russian–as his handwriting was gradually influenced by the Latin letters of English during the 40 years that he lived in the United States.

Bezaleli also testified that he found indications that the “original photo” on the card may at one time have been removed but “it was not changed” for another.

Recommended from JTA