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‘Israel’s Most Hated Man’ Speaks

Attorney Yoram Sheftel speaks of his defense of convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 3/18/2012, 4:55 AM

Yoram Sheftel
Yoram Sheftel
Flash 90

Attorney Yoram Sheftel spoke to Arutz Sheva on Saturday night following the death of John Demjanjuk. Sheftel was Demjanjuk’s attorney in the 1980s, when he was tried in Israel on charges of torture and murder at the Treblinka death camp.

“I was those most hated man in the country, more than my client,” Sheftel recalled.

Sheftel believes that state prosecutors decided to go after Demjanjuk for appearances’ sake. “It was true theater,” he said. Demjanjuk was accused of being “Ivan the Terrible,” a notoriously brutal Nazi guard.

Israelis “were being constantly brainwashed by the prosecution,” Sheftel charged. Between the prosecution and the “cursed Israeli media,” the public could not help hating him, he said.

Sheftel remains convinced that Demjanjuk was innocent of the charges against him. “I proved beyond any doubt that he never set foot in Treblinka,” he declared.

The court convicted Demjanjuk of 900,000 counts of murder, but the conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, which cast doubt on the connection between Demjanjuk and “Ivan the Terrible.”

During the trial Sheftel was attacked by a man whose family had been murdered in the Holocaust. The attack left him with facial injuries, including a serious eye wound.

The trial even led to a rift between Sheftel and his own mother, a Holocaust survivor. “My mother thought I was insane,” he said. However, when the Supreme Court freed Demjanjuk, his mother called to apologize. “We had a lot of fights,” he said, “but that was the only time that my mother called and admitted she had been wrong, and apologized.”

Demjanjuk was later found guilty of war crimes in a trial in Germany in which he was accused of serving at the Sobibor death camp. Sheftel believes Demjanjuk was innocent of those charges as well.