13 April 2010
Ivan (John) Demjanjuk, who is standing trial in Germany for allegedly helping in the murder of 27,900 Jews at the Nazi camp Sobibor during World War II, told the Munich court on Tuesday that he was an “innocent victim.” In a statement read out by his attorney, the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk blamed Jewish groups, namely the World Jewish Congress and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, for leveling false charges against him.
In his first statement to the court, Demjanjuk, 90, said that he has been erroneously prosecuted for 30 years in the US, Israel and Germany. Prosecutors allege that Demjanjuk worked as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in German-occupied Poland in 1943. “It is an injustice that Germany tries to make me, a prisoner of war, into a war criminal to try to deviate from its own war crimes,” he said in his statement “This trial is torture for me.”
Demjanjuk, a retired autoworker, lived near Cleveland until he was stripped of his US citizenship and extradited to Israel in 1986. He was tried there on charges of having been ‘Ivan the Terrible’ at the Treblinka camp and having tortured Jews while herding them into the gas chambers. His death sentence and conviction in the case were overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court in 1993, saying there was reasonable doubt that Demjanjuk had been at Treblinka.
He returned to the US, regaining his citizenship. In 2002, a court there revoked it again over his alleged role at Sobibor. He was extradited to Germany last year to stand trial in Munich.
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