Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Prosecution Concludes Case in Appeal Brought by Demjanjuk

June 22, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

“The spirits of the 800,000 Treblinka victims hover over these proceedings all the time. No ‘statute of limitations’ can apply to the crimes of ‘Ivan the Terrible,’ and no good behavior can mitigate them.”

With these words, state prosecutor Michael Shaked concluded his case Wednesday in the High Court of Justice, where John Demjanjuk, convicted of being Ivan the Terrible, a brutal guard at Treblinka, was exercising his final appeal against his conviction and death sentence for crimes against humanity and against the Jewish people.

Defense counsel Yoram Sheftel has the right to address the court once more, next Tuesday. The hearing will then end, and the judgment is expected within three months.

A death sentence for Demjanjuk is not a matter of revenge, Shaked stressed. “What the prosecution is doing, in the name of the state, is to vomit forth from society, and from the world, someone who is not fit to stay alive even one more day, because of what he did at Treblinka,” he said.

Shaked, who urged the High Court to uphold Demjanjuk’s death sentence, dismissed the defense argument that any sliver of doubt about Demjanjuk’s identity, no matter how small, should suffice to prevent a death sentence.

He argued that no additional burden of proof is required for the imposition of death upon a defendant so convicted by law.

Shaked also rejected the argument that Demjanjuk’s clean record as an American citizen for more than 40 years should affect the court’s decision. The Israeli law for doing justice to the Nazis, he said, clearly mandates that Nazi crimes be dealt with today as though they had just now been perpetrated.

Shaked criticized Sheftel’s performance during the appeal, and dismissed what he had submitted as ostensibly new evidence, including depositions from witnesses in Poland identifying someone else as Ivan the Terrible, and the testimony of witnesses who have since died.

He recalled the positive identifications of five witnesses, and insisted that the key identifying document, from the Trawniki camp where SS guards were trained, was valid. He also pointed out what he called lies and inconsistencies in Demjanjuk’s own alibi and evidence.

At the end of the day there was no doubt at all, Shaked told the court, that the defendant was indeed the operator of the Treblinka death camp.

Demjanjuk was convicted on April 18, 1988.

Recommended from JTA