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Nazi Extradition

DW Staff / DPA (cat)June 18, 2008

Germany's top Holocaust crimes prosecutor said Tuesday he would apply for the extradition of John Demjanjuk, 88, the Ukrainian-born man alleged to have been a brutal guard at the Nazis' Treblinka death camp.

Black and white photo of soldiers holding guns
Many participants in the Warsaw Uprising met their death at TreblinkaImage: dpa

Demjanjuk was acquitted by an Israeli court in 1993, but German prosecutor Kurt Schrimm said he was confident he could win Demjanjuk's conviction in a court in Ludwigsburg.

Schrimm, who heads Germany's special office for prosecuting Holocaust crimes, said "Our view is that a conviction can be attained under German criminal law."

Fifteen years ago Israel's supreme court ruled there was a reasonable doubt whether Demjanjuk had been a sadistic guard nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible," and quashed his 1988 death sentence.

A race against time for convictions

Old man wearing striped shirt and yellow star of david
It's now a race against time to prosecute before survivors dieImage: AP

Although Demjanjuk has escaped hanging, the Simon Wiesenthal Center lists him at number two on its wanted list of 10 top Nazi war criminals. Demjanjuk asserts he served with a Nazi unit in Ukraine but not at the extermination camp.

Schrimm, the German Nazi hunter, is in a race against time to catch the last Nazi-era criminals before they die. His office in Ludwigshafen has extensive files, and said they would apply within two months to the German high court for Demjanjuk to be extradited.

The high court would first have to decide if German prosecutors had authority over the case, as German courts are normally only responsible for crimes committed by Germans or inside Germany. According to Schrimm, however, German connections were enough.

"A significant number of victims came from Germany and Demjanjuk performed functions for Germany," he said.

Demjanjuk could be described as an official of Nazi Germany, the prosecutor said, adding that he felt "a certain satisfaction" at the prospect of leading such a trial before all the suspects and witnesses had passed away.

Demjanjuk emigrated to the United States in 1951 and has recently had his US citizenship revoked. Since then, no country has offered to take him.