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November 20, 1987 - Image 48

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-11-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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48

FRIDAY, NOV. 20, 1987

J

ohn Demjanjuk, born
in the Ukraine, admit-
- ted to the United
States in 1952 under the
Displaced Persons Act, who
became a naturalized citizen
in 1958, is now on trial in
Jerusalem charged with the
World War II murder of tens
of thousands of Jews and non-
Jews while operating the gas
chambers at the Treblinka
. concentration camp. No in-
dividual had previously been
extradited from the U.S. to
Israel on war crimes charges.
The background story of
how Demjanjuk was stripped
of his U.S. citizenship and ex-
tradited to Israel provides a
special glimpse into the work-
ings of the U.S. justice system
and the strength of character
of Chief Judge Pierce Lively
of the United States Court of
Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
This case began in the ear-
ly 1980s in the Cleveland
courtroom of Chief Federal
District Judge Frank Battisti
when the U.S. Department of
Justice sued to revoke John
Demjanjuk's certificate of
naturalization and to vacate
the order admitting him to
citizenship. Judge Battisti
ruled in favor of the govern-
ment, finding:
• "The savage cruelty of
this notorious man earned
him the special nickname
among the camp's Jewish in-
mates, "Ivan (Grozny)" or
"Ivan the terrible"?"
• At his naturalization, he
changed his first name from
Ivan to John.
• His failure to disclose his
service under the German SS
at Trawniki and his later ser-
vice as an armed guard at
Treblinka were material
misrepresentations on his
visa application.
The government then
began deportation pro-
ceedings and the State of
Israel filed a request for Dem-
janjuk's extradition.
Demjanjuk appealed. The
case was heard by a three-
judge Appeals Court panel:
Judges Pierce Lively of Ken-
tucky, Damon Keith of Mich-
igan and Gilbert Merritt of
Tennessee. The court held
that the District Court did
not err — that the extradition
did not violate any of Demjan-
juk's rights under the Con-
stitution and statutes of the
United States.
Chief Judge Lively wrote a
unanimous opinion that not
only completely undercut all

of Demjanjuk's arguments,
but went on to set forth in
stern and direct language the
proper response of a civilized
nation to the inhuman con-
duct charged against him:
"There was sworn
testimony by affidavits from
six witnesses who were at
Treblinka in 1942 and 1943
who stated that Demjanjuk
was a guard who herded
prisoners into the gas
chambers and then actually
operated the mechanism
which filled the chambers
with gas. In addition, several
of the witnesses testified that
they saw Demjanjuk beat and
maim prisoners, some of
whom died."
He also wrote: "Murder is a
crime in every state of the
United States. The fact that
there is no separate offense of
mass murder or murder of
tens of thousands of Jews in
this country is beside the
point .. .
"Demjanjuk's argument
that to interpret murder to in-
clude murder of Jews would
amount to judicial amend-
ment of the treaty is absurd
and offensive."

Damjanjuk claimed that he
couldn't be extradited to
Israel because he wasn't a
citizen or resident of Israel,
the crimes charged were com-
mitted in Poland, and they
took place in 1942 or 1943,
before the State of Israel
came into existence.
Judge Lively responded
that U.S.-Israel extradition
treaty language recognizes
the right to request extradi-
tion for extraterritorial
crimes. In this case, the
Israeli statute applied to
"crimes against the Jewish
people," "crimes against
humanity" and "war crimes"
committed during the Nazi
years. "Such a claim of ex-
traterritorial jurisdiction over
criminal offenses is not uni-
que to Israel," he wrote.
Judge Lively further ruled
that international law recog-
nizes a universal jurisdiction
of an offense such as genocide
"based on the assumption
that some crimes are so
universally condemned that
the perpetrators are the
enemies of all people." He
noted that the establishment
of the Nuremberg tribunals
was based on such universal
jurisdiction.
Additionally, Judge Lively
ruled that "the fact that the
State of Israel was not in ex-
istence when Demjanjuk
allegedly committed the of-
fenses is no bar to Israel's ex-

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