Germany files charges against alleged Nazi guard Demjanjuk | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 13.07.2009
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Germany files charges against alleged Nazi guard Demjanjuk

A court in Germany has formally charged alleged Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk with 27,900 counts of being an accessory to murder in World War Two.

John Demjanjuk

Demjanjuk's will perhaps be the last Holocaust trial in Germany

State prosecutors in Munich said the charges were filed on Monday against the 89-year-old retired car worker who was extradited to Germany from the United States in May.

There are no details on when the trial would begin.

The filing of charges comes 10 days after medical experts at Munich's Stadelheim prison said Demjanjuk was fit to stand trial as long as court sessions do not exceed two 90-minute sessions per day.

Demjanjuk's family had said the octogenarian was too frail to withstand the proceedings because he suffers from kidney disease, cancer and arthritis.

Most-wanted Nazi war criminal

Demjanjuk has denied accusations that he was a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943 and helped murder Jews.

A monument in Sobibor in eastern Poland remembers the killings of around 250,000 people at the Nazi death camp

A monument in Sobibor in eastern Poland remembers the victims at the Nazi death camp

He has said he was captured by the Germans in Ukraine while fighting for the Red Army and held as a prisoner of war.

Until being deported to Germany in May, the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk had headed the list of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's 10 most-wanted suspected war criminals.

Efraim Zuroff from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre welcomed Monday's move by German prosecutors.

"This is obviously an important step forward," Zufroff told the Associated Press. "We hope that the trial itself will be expedited so that justice will be achieved and he can be given the appropriate punishment."

"The effort to bring Demjanjuk to justice sends a very powerful message that the passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the perpetrator."

Possibly last Holocaust trial

Demjanjuk was deported by US authorities from his home in Ohio on May 12. He had appealed against the deportation in a last ditch attempt to avoid facing charges but had his request rejected by a German court last week.

Demjanjuk's trial is the last expected time a German court will prosecute for Holocaust crimes in the country.

Demjanjuk has lived in the US since 1952. He arrived there as a refugee and worked in the car industry in Cleveland, Ohio.

A former ID card of John Demjanjuk

A former ID card of Demjanjuk's with the word "Sobibor" printed on it

In 1988, he was sentenced to death in Israel for crimes against humanity after Holocaust survivors identified him as the notorious "Ivan the Terrible," a guard at the Treblinka death camp.

But Israel's highest court later overturned his sentence, after documents from the former Soviet Union indicated that "Ivan the Terrible" had probably been a different man.

Demjanjuk returned to the US, but in 2002 had his US citizenship revoked because of his failure to disclose his work at Nazi camps when he first arrived.

sp/Reuters/dpa

Editor: Neil King

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