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January 23, 1987 - Image 37

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-01-23

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SS, and in July 1942, he was transfer-
red to Trawniki, a training camp for
prisoners who agreed to collaborate
with the SS.
At Trawniki, he was issued with an
identity card bearing his photograph,
personal particulars and the identity
number 1393 (last month, the Soviet
authorities presented the identity
card, an essential piece of evidence, to
the Israeli prosecutors).
In October 1942, Demjanjuk was
transferred to Treblinka, where he
served until September 1943.
He was particularly well qualified
for his new posting: unlike the
Auschwitz extermination chambers,
which used the relatively efficient
Zyklon-B gas to kill its victims,
Treblinka relied on carbon monoxide
which was generated by a diesel
engine and pumped into the gas
chambers. And Demjanjuk was a
qualified diesel mechanic.
Treblinka was one of three death
camps established by the Nazis in
eastern Poland between February
and July 1942 (the other two were
Sobibor and Belzec).
Some 80 kilometres west of War-
saw, Treblinka started operating in
July 1942 and was intended to serve
as the extermination camp for the
Jews of the Polish capital and the
nearby districts of Radom and
Bialystok.
Ukrainian auxiliaries working
under the direction of SS officers
killed some 1.8 million people at the
three new camps. At Treblinka alone,
850,000 perished.
In the chaos of Europe in the im-
mediate aftermath of the war, it is
alleged, Demjanjuk changed his
name from Ivan to John and found
refuge in a camp for displaced
persons in Germany.
In 1952, with a woman he married
in the camp, Demjanjuk arrived in
the United States, settled in Clev-
eland and landed a job as a diesel
mechanic with Ford.
He was an active member of the St
Vladimir Church, which serves the
city's large Ukrainian Orthodox corn-
munity, and was well liked by fellow
parshioners. Neighbours in the Seven
Hills suburb, where he bought a
home, describe him as "one of the
nicest guys you'd ever want to meet."
Demjanjuk's past caught up with
him in 1975 when his name appeared
on a list of suspected Ukrainian war
criminals that was sent to the Im-
migration and Naturalization Service
(INS) by a Ukrainian living in the
United States.
In 1977, INS officials investigating
the case of Feodor Fedorenko, an-
other alleged Treblinka guard then
living in Waterford, Connecticut,

Religious News Service

almost by accident, living in Cleve-
land, Ohio, where he worked for the
Ford Motor Company after having
immigrated to the United States
after the war.
'Ib the very few survivors of Tre-
blinka, Demjanjuk was known simply
as "Ivan the Thrrible", and the Israeli
prosecutors will seek to prove that
this sobriquet was richly deserved.
They will allege that before ac-
tivating the generators, Demjanjuk
would stand at the entrance to the
gas chambers armed with a sword, a
bayonet, a whip or an iron bar,
mutilating and tormenting his vic-
tims as they made their way naked to
their deaths.
From time to time, according to the
charge sheet, he would single out
elderly, religious Jewish men — iden-
tified by their beards and sidelocks —
for special torment.
It is alleged that Demjanjuk would
lead them to a nearby barbed-wire
fence, place their heads between the
taut strands of wire and whip them
until, writhing in agony, they would
strangle themselves to death.
On one occasion, he is said to have
shot a young woman who tried to
escape; on another, he is alleged to
have ordered that three prisoners who
attempted to escape be bound and
thrown into the snow. Then he
smashed their limbs with an iron bar
so that they could not move. Towards
evening, dying of their injuries and
exposure, they were hanged.
Six Israeli survivors testified at
Demjanjuk's denaturalization hear-
ings in the United States. According
to one survivor, Demjanjuk would
help in the task of packing victims
into the gas chambers.
"He used to fill the chambers by
shoving the people through the doors,
clubbing them until they were all in-
side," said the witness. "He used to
pull the pretty girls out of the lines
and rape them. I saw this many
times. And after he raped them, he
would take them outside and shoot
them."
John "Ivan" Demjanjuk was born
in the Ukrainian village of Dub
Macharenzi on April 3, 1920. A
farmer and tractor operator, he was
conscripted into a Red Army artillery
unit in the winter of 1940.
In 1941, he was injured in the back
by shrapnel and was left with a per-
manent scar. - After recovering, he
took part in the fighting around
Kerch, on the Crimean Peninsula,
where he was taken prisoner by the
Germans in the spring of 1942.
He was sent to a prisoner of war
camp in the western Ukraine and
soon after he deserted from the Red
Army. He was recruited to the Nazi

Adolf Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem in 1961.

prepared a photo-spread for Israeli
police to show to Treblinka survivors.
They added a photograph that Dem-
janjuk had submitted with his 1951
visa application.
Israeli- investigators showed the
folder to Eliyahu Rosenberg, one of
the few people to survive the August
1943 uprising in Treblinka. Rosen-
berg identified Fedorenko.
Then he pointed to the photograph
of Demjanjuk: "That man was Ivan,
and he was at Treblinka, too."
Another rfreblinka survivor, Pinhas
Epstein, also identified Demjanjuk,
and a third, Hahn Rajgrodski, an-
nounced: "That is Ivan who was at
Camp 2 at Treblinka."
The three Israelis, and two other
survivors, all gave testimony against
. Demjanjuk in the trial, which began
in Cleveland on February 10, 1981, to
establish whether he was eligible,
under the Displaced Persons Act, to
live in the United States.
During that first hearing — and at
all subsequent hearings — Demj an-
juk has insisted that he was never at
Treblinka, that the accusations

against him were the result of mis-
taken identity.
But in June 1981, the court con-
cluded that "the defendant was
present at Treblinka in 1942-1943".
Demjanjuk's citizenship was revoked
and, after an appeals court upheld
the ruling, deportation proceedings
were instigated.
The decision to allow Demjanjuk's
extradition to Israel was unprece-
dented. The accused was not an
Israeli, nor were his victims. Nor were
the offences committed in Israel. In-
deed, Israel did not even exist at the
time of the alleged crimes.
"It was one thing to satisfy Israeli
courts of our right under interna-
tional law to bring Eichmann to trial
here," says British-born Mr Dennis
Gouldman, head of the international
department of the Israel State At-
torney's Office and a member of the
prosecution team in the Demjanjuk
case. "It was another thing to per-
suade a foreign court that Israel
should try a man who is not an Israeli
national, whose offence was not corn-

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37

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