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Deportation of alleged Nazi death camp guard Demjanjuk delayed

A US court has asked for a medical report on alleged Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk. The move will delay his deportation to Germany for trial by at least one week.

John Demjanjuk, second from right, is taken from his home outside Cleveland

Demjanjuk's deportation is eagerly anticipated by German prosecutors

The appeals court asked the Justice Department to detail its plans to transport the 89-year-old retired auto worker.

The court also demanded the state provide "the report of the doctor which forms the basis for its conclusion that the petitioner's medical condition is such that he is stable enough to travel safely."

German authorities allege that the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, then 23, worked for seven months in 1943 as a guard at the Sobibor concentration camp in Poland. At least 29,000 Jews died at the camp during that time.

Prosecutors in Munich issued an arrest warrant for him three weeks ago.

However the US Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, granted Demjanjuk a stay on his deportation order on Tuesday, April 14, hours after federal agents removed him from his home in the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills in anticipation of sending him to Germany.

Demjanjuk has maintained his innocence of all charges. He says he was drafted into the Russian army in 1941, became a German prisoner of war and served at German prison camps until 1944.

German resignation

The stayed deportation has thrown a spotlight on the deference of many Germans towards the case.

More than 60 years since the end of World War II, which few alive lived through, the desire to see Nazi era war criminals face justice is still present.

But according to Bernd Wagner from Berlin's Center for Democratic Culture, Demjanjuk is largely viewed as just one cog in a complex machine that spread horror throughout Europe, and which is slowly fading to the recesses of German public consciousness.

John Demjanjuk arrives at the federal building in Cleveland Monday, Feb. 28, 2005

The 89-year-old is alleged to have worked in a Nazi concentration camp

Wagner said the current generation of young Germans were less emotional about World War II than their parents and felt the country needed to move on from its troubled history.

"There's a widely held view we should draw a line under this chapter of the past," Wagner told news agency Reuters.

Trial questioned

Demjanjuk's lawyers are arguing that he is too ill to stand trial and that his medical condition would worsen in incarceration. This has led many in Germany to question the purpose his trial would serve, Klaus-Peter Schoeppner, head of pollsters Emnid, told Reuters.

"The share of Germans who, in the third generation, want to draw a line under the past and not deal with the guilt question all the time has increased massively over past years," Schoeppner said.

However, this has not swayed German authorities, who feel that if Demjanjuk is judged fit to stand trial then he should be made to do so.

"This is not about revenge but about clearing things up and justice," a spokesman for the parliamentary group of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats said. "It is also a matter of working through our history."

Joerg van Essen of the opposition Free Democrats (FDP) said Germany was still obligated to ensure that Nazi era war criminals were brought to justice.

"If someone is fit, then age is no protection from punishment … every case makes clear our responsibility to make sure that something like this must never happen again," he said.

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