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Nazi death camp guard arrives at German prison

John Demjanjuk, the suspected Nazi death camp guard deported from the US to face accusations of being accessory to the murder of 29,000 Jews and others, was transferred to a German prison Tuesday.

  • AP
  • Published: 15:19 May 12, 2009
  • Gulf News

Munich: John Demjanjuk, the suspected Nazi death camp guard deported from the US to face accusations of being accessory to the murder of 29,000 Jews and others, was transferred to a German prison Tuesday.

The retired Ohio autoworker arrived at Munich's airport from Cleveland at about 9:15am (0715 GMT) aboard a private jet. The plane taxied directly into a hangar, accompanied by police vehicles and an ambulance.

From there he was transported by ambulance, under police escort, to a special medical unit of the Stadelheim prison, where the 89-year-old Demjanjuk, who is allegedly in poor health, will be examined by a doctor and formally arrested.

If he is found fit to stand trial, it could bring to an end a more than three-decade saga of efforts to prosecute the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, who says he was a Red Army soldier, spent the war as a Nazi POW and never hurt anyone.

But Nazi-era documents obtained by US justice authorities and shared with German prosecutors suggest otherwise. They include a photo ID identifying Demjanjuk as a guard at the Sobibor death camp and saying he was trained at an SS facility for Nazi guards at Trawniki. Both sites were in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Reached at his office in Jerusalem, Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, praised US and German authorities for bringing Demjanjuk in.

"I think this is an extremely important day for justice and the fact that Demjanjuk, who actively participated in the mass murder of 29,000 Jews at Sobibor, will be put to trial is of great significance and reinforces the message that the passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the murders," he said.

Yet, the key to Demjanjuk's fate may lie not with the evidence but rather with a German court's decision about whether he is medically fit to stand trial. In any case, Demjanjuk, who has been without a country since the U.S. stripped him of his citizenship in 2002, is likely to spend the rest of his life here.

Germany's main Jewish leader urged authorities to act quickly.

"It is a race against time," Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor, said in a statement.

"For survivors of the Shoa it is intolerable to watch how a suspected Nazi war criminal, who knew no mercy for his victims, seeks sympathy and compares his deportation to torture."

Demjanjuk insists he is innocent and bitterly fought his deportation for nearly four years.

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