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Work ID card of Ivan Demjanjuk
Work ID card of Ivan Demjanjuk -- it reads "27.3. 43 Sobibor," the date he allegedly began work in the death campImage: picture-alliance / dpa

Nazi Crimes

DW staff (jam)
November 10, 2008

German investigators handed over Monday what they said was adequate evidence to try a former Ukrainian, Ivan John Demjanjuk, for Nazi war crimes. He was a former death camp guard now living in the US.


The file on Demjanjuk, who was nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible," was compiled by the German national office for solving Nazi crimes.

The head of the office, Kurt Schrimm, said he hopes the prosecutors in Munich will seek extradition of 88-year-old Demjanjuk from the United States, where he immigrated in the 1950s and worked in the car industry.

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk is accused of having having participated in the murder in 1943 of at least 29,000 European Jews at the death camps in Sobibor and Treblinka, Poland, during World War II.

Ivan John Demjanjuk arrives at the federal building in Cleveland in 2005
Ivan John Demjanjuk arrives at the federal building in Cleveland in 2005Image: AP

"We have managed to obtain hundred of documents and have also found a number of witnesses who spoke out against Demjanjuk," Schrimm told the Reuters news agency.

"For the first time we have even found lists of names of the people who Demjanjuk personally led into the gas chambers. We have no doubt that he is responsible for the death of over 29,000 Jews," Schrimm added.

US authorities extradited him to Israel in 1986 after his alleged role in the Holocaust became known in the 1970s.

He was accused of crimes committed at the Treblinka death camp, where survivors said he was given the nickname Ivan the Terrible for his alleged crimes.

Identity questions

Demjanjuk was found guilty and sentenced to death in 1988, but the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the verdict in 1990, saying that it could not be proven that he was the same person as Ivan the Terrible.

Jews being sent to the Treblinka death camp, where Demjanjuk also worked as a guard
Jews being sent to the Treblinka death camp, where Demjanjuk also worked as a guardImage: picture-alliance / dpa

Now Demjanjuk's identity, Schrimm said, has been "100 percent" established.

The German Nazi hunters are now convinced that their investigation has brought new evidence about his activities in Sobibor. They said Germany has jurisdiction because 1,900 Jewish victims were German citizens.

Currently Demjanjuk is stateless and Ukraine refuses to take him back. Munich prosecutors are to be asked to take on the case because Demjanjuk lived near there till moving to the United States in 1952, where he changed his name to John.

Schrimm said the decision was up to the Munich prosecutors. His team had provided hundreds of pages of documentation from archives in Israel, the United States and various sites in Germany.

The investigation office, which has faced criticism from Israeli-based groups for not delivering results, celebrates its 50th anniversary on December 1.

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