‘Handicapped’ Demjanjuk to Face Holocaust Survivors

John Demjanjuk, whose apparent handicapped condition is in doubt, is scheduled to face Holocaust survivors in the second day of his trial Tuesday.

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Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu,

Israel news photo: Jewish Virtual Library

John Demjanjuk, whose apparent handicapped condition is in doubt, is scheduled to face Holocaust survivors on the second day of his war crimes trial Tuesday. The trial may be the last major court case of its kind as most Nazi criminals die off.

Thirty plaintiffs, most of whom are relatives of the death camp victims, are to testify Tuesday. There are no known living survivors of Sobibor.

Demjanjuk, 89, appeared in court on Monday while moaning in a wheelchair for the first session and then returning on a stretcher. However, he was seen laughing and joking after most of journalists had left the room. His family has complained that he may not survive the court proceedings for allegedly being involved in the murder of 27,900 Jews while serving as a guard for the Nazis.

One blood specialist denied in court his family’s claim that Demjanjuk suffers from leukemia, and Nazi hunter Ephraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, commented, “It's a pathetic attempt to appear more crippled than he is. He belongs in Hollywood."  

Demjanjuk, known as Ivan the Terrible, was sentenced to death in Israel in 1988, but Israeli courts overturned the conviction five years later after doubts were raised concerning his identity. He claims he is the victim of mistaken identity in the case of a guard with a similar nickname who killed Jews at the Sobibor death camp in 1943.

Dr. Yitzchak Arad, who testified in the original trial in Israel and is an expert on Sobibor, told Arutz 7 that the trial in Israel concerned Treblinka and not Sobibor, where it is almost certain that there is no case of mistaken identify.

“There is no doubt that John Demjanjuk also was involved in Treblinka as well as Sobibor,” he said. There were incidents where guards were transferred from place to place. It has been proven that he was at Treblinka. Claims that he joined the war afterwards have been proven to be incorrect.”

He explained that the Israeli courts overturned the conviction because “our judicial system frees anyone when there is even the slightest doubt of someone being a criminal.”

Dr. Arad added that the murder indictments cover only a fraction of the 250,000 victims at Sobibor and that Demjanjuk is certain to be convicted. However, he said the judges may lighten the sentence because of Demjanjuk's age.