22 March 2011
After nearly 18 months, a court in Munich, Germany has closed the evidentiary phase in the trial of Ukrainian-born Ivan [John] Demjanjuk, and closing arguments have begun. The prosecution asked the court to sentence the 90-year-old to six years in prison. Prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz said there was "no reasonable doubt" that Demjanjuk had participated in the Holocaust and that he worked at the Nazi death camp Sobibor in occupied Poland for six months during 1943. "The accused was at first a victim of German aggression. Then he became a perpetrator with his participation in the mass murder of Jews," said Lutz in his closing remarks. "It is not about passing off German guilt for the mass murder committed by the SS onto someone else," he told the court.
Demjanjuk stands accused of helping to murder at least 28,000 Jews and other as a guard at the Nazi death camp Sobibor in occupied Poland during World War II. The 90-year-old has denied the charges, saying he never served the Nazis in any camp. A verdict is now anticipated for May. It had been expected as early as mid-March, but defense attorney Ulrich Busch flooded the court with motions over the last month requesting new evidence and witnesses. The three trial judges dismissed all of the more than 350 motions, saying that many were issues that were already resolved in court and that others were more statements than requests.Busch said he would demand his client be acquitted.
Lutz sketched out the horror of the Sobibor camp and described how victims were made to undress at the double, their valuables stripped off them and the hair of the women cut. "Some asked for it not to be cut too short, as they had no idea of the fate that awaited them," the prosecutor said. Then, "around 80 people were pushed into the gas chamber, which was around four metres square (13 square feet) and hermetically sealed. Then gas was pumped into the chamber. This consisted of a deadly mix of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. After between 20 and 30 minutes, the people were dead." Guarding the camp, said Lutz, were between 20 and 30 German SS men and some 150 foreign guards, who came "mainly from Ukraine," Lutz said. He added that a total of 29,579 Jews had arrived at Sobibor while Demjanjuk was there.
The court had canceled the last two trial sessions after Demjanjuk was hospitalized with an intestinal infection and low blood hemoglobin levels. He was brought back in Thursday, however, after the doctor had declared him fit for trial. On Tuesday, he was seen joking with one of the medics. Demjanjuk took a small sip from a plastic cup and sat up on his stretcher.
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