”Ivan the Terrible” John Demjanjuk testified at his war crimes trial Tuesday that not only is he not guilty, but that also he is “a victim of the Germans.” He has been charged with 27,900 counts as an accomplice in the murder of Jews at the Sobibor death camp.
In his first lengthy testimony at the trial, his attorney denied on his behalf that he was a volunteer guard at the camp. Now age 90, he declared, "I find it an unbearable injustice that Germany, with this trial, is trying to make me out to be a war criminal, when I was a prisoner of war, and wants to use me to distance itself from its own war crimes. I am, again and again, an innocent victim of the Germans."
Demjanjuk, unlike most prosecuted Nazi war criminals, was born in Ukraine and fought for the Soviet Red Army before Nazis captured him. He denies having volunteered to be the guard who ushered Jews to gas chambers, and he has remained steadfast to his claim that the Nazis put him into forced labor at a different camp.
He was extradited from the United States to stand trial after the Israeli High Court in 1993 overturned his death sentence for crimes at the Treblinka death camp. The justices agreed with his assertion that he was a victim of mistaken identity. New evidence has indicated that there is no mistake in identifying him as a Nazi guard at Sobibor.
In his testimony Tuesday, he also blamed the World Jewish Congress and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which has been leading the campaign to find and extradite Demjanjuk, for false charges against him.
The trial began last November, but Demjanjuk had remained virtually silent until Tuesday. "Germany is to blame for the fact that I have lost my whole reason for living, my family, my happiness and any future or hope,” he stated through his lawyer.