A German court has issued an arrest warrant for John Demjanjuk, 88, the alleged Nazi war criminal “Ivan the Terrible” suspected of killing thousands of Jews in World War II death camps.
The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk has lived in the United States since 1952 though he has already been tried in Israel for war crimes.
“The accused is currently still in the United States,” a court official said in a statement released in Munich. “As soon as he arrives in Germany he will be questioned and tried.”
Demjanjuk is now accused of taking part in the deaths of at least 29,000 Jews when he was a guard at the Sobibor Nazi concentration camp in what is now Poland from March until September 1943, the German prosecutor said in a statement.
New inquiry begins
The new German inquiry has been carried out by the Central Investigation Centre for Nazi Crimes.
Demjanjuk has been fighting notoriety since 1977 when former inmates at the Treblinka death camp identified Demjanjuk as “Ivan the Terrible” as part of a US Justice Department investigation.
He was extradited from the United States to Israel in 1986 and a court there sentenced him to death in 1988. He was released in August 1993 when the case collapsed after statements by former guards assembled by the Soviet KGB identified another man, Ivan Marchenko, as being “Ivan the Terrible”.
Demjanjuk then returned to Cleveland, Ohio even though his US nationality had been taken from him for lying about his wartime activities. He has lived under near house arrest since his return and faced other investigations in the
The case against him was revived in 1999 after new evidence emerged that he had worked as a guard at three other Nazi death camps.
\’Mistreatment of prisoners\’
US investigators brought together witness accounts which described how Demjanjuk was seen at Sobibor, kicking Jews or hitting them with his rifle butt to get them out of railway wagons more quickly.
Demjanjuk is still on a Simon Wiesenthal Center list of the most wanted Nazi war criminals still alive.
“My reaction is one of great joy and satisfaction and a sense that we are hopefully on the way to seeing justice being achieved in this very difficult and complex case,” said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre
“Every victim of the Holocaust deserves that an effort be made to find and bring to justice those who turned them into victims,” he said, adding: “There is no doubt that he\’s a Nazi war criminal.”
Demjanjuk \’wants peace\’
A German justice ministry spokesman told a press conference that Germany now has two ways to pursue the case.
“Either Demjanjuk is expelled by the United States, he arrives in Germany and the arrest warrant is carried out,” or an extradition request is made.
On Friday, Demjanjuk\’s wife Vera told the Bild daily that the couple “now only wanted to die in peace.”
She said her husband “had already been condemned so often. He was on death row in Israel for six years.”
Demjanjuk, who changed his first name from Ivan to John after emigrating to the United States in the 1950s, had moved to Cleveland, Ohio after the war to work as an auto mechanic.