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John Demjanjuk: Still guilty?
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country were calling crisis help
lines. Yet American Jewish
leaders, as well as legal experts
and survivors, praised the
"What else could they do?"
said Mila Horowitz, a native of
Poland who spent the war years
in Siberia and now lives in Oak
Park. 'They don't have 101 per-
cent proof that he's Ivan."
American Jewish Congress
Associate Executive Director
Phil Baum said the ruling re-
flected "the integrity and reso-
lute fairness of the Israeli
judicial system," while Nazi
hunter Simon Wiesenthal also
labeled the decision fair.
Detroit College of Law
Professor Harold Norris com-
mended the court for its "in-
tegrity. That the court acted as
a guardian of the process, even
in such historically intense cas-
es, is quite significant," he said.
Wayne State University Law
School Professor Marvin
Zalman said the court's decision
"came as no surprise to crimi-
nal law experts."
Not only did doubt exist as to
whether Mr. Demjanjuk is re-
ally Ivan, but the accused nev-
er had a chance to defend
himself against charges that he
worked at Sobibor during the
To some, it may seem irrel-
evant whether Mr. Demjanjuk
was at Treblinka or Sobibor,
where more than 250,000 Jews
"But the sense both of our
Jewish and Anglo-American
traditions is that vital decisions
about life, liberty and proper-
ty be made within the context
of the law and be made in a
structured way," Professor
A major element of the pros-
ecution's case was the eyewit-
ness testimony of five Treblinka
survivors, all of whom identi-
fied Mr. Demjanjuk as Ivan.
Professor Zalman labeled
such testimony precarious at
"It's not neutral evidence; it's
information processed through
a psychological lens that can
distort," he said.
It isn't that witnesses delib-
erately lie. "But there are cases
of misperception," he explained.
"How many times have you
been sure you recognize some-
one from a slight distance, only
to find out that's not him?"
Numerous instances reveal
the kind of confusion that can
occur during traumatic inci-
dents, Professor Zalman added.
In many robberies, for example,
victims will vividly remember
the gun — but no other details.
Meanwhile, U.S. Justice
Department officials said this
week they are reconsidering
whether Mr. Demjanjuk is not
welcome back into the United
"Demjanjuk got off on a tech-
nicality," said Neal Sher, direc-
tor of the Justice Department's
Nazi-hunting unit, the Office of
Special Investigations. "There
is no way that anyone can read
in the Israeli Supreme Court
decision that he is an innocent
Mr. Demjanjuk's supporters
are working to see that he be al-
lowed to return to Cleveland.
Last week, Rep. James
Traficant, D-Ohio, one of Mr.
Demjanjuk's chief backers,
sponsored legislation calling for
Mr. Demjanjuk's return to this
country and the restoration of
his American citizenship.
Mr. Demjanjuk, who has in-
sisted from the beginning that
he is a victim of mistaken iden-
tity, came to the United States
in 1958. He was stripped of his
citizenship after officials deter-
mined he had lied on his appli-
cation for admittance.
Mr. Demjanjuk was deport-
ed in 1986 to Israel. In 1988, a
three-judge Israeli court con-
cluded "without hesitation or
doubt" that Mr.-Demjanjuk was
Ivan, a man notorious for en-
joying watching his victims suf-
fer. Mr. Demjanjuk was
sentenced to be hanged.
Mr. Demjanjuk's attorney,
Yoram Sheftel, appealed the de-
cision and amassed new evi-
dence that was presented before
the Israeli Supreme Court. Mr.
Sheftel held that another man
— the late Ivan Marchenko —
was the real Ivan.
Officials in Ukraine said Mr.
Demjanjuk could be subject to
arrest if his name appears on a
list of Ukrainian war criminals.
There is no statute of limita-
tions for war crimes.
According to reports from the
former Soviet republic, a small
but growing group of Ukrainian
supporters have been demon-
strating in Mr. Demjanjuk's fa-
The JTA contributed to this