Prosecutors: clear evidence Demjanjuk was at camp

AP News
Posted: Mar 22, 2011 12:16 PM
Prosecutors: clear evidence Demjanjuk was at camp

A German prosecutor insists there is clear evidence John Demjanjuk served as a guard at the Nazis' Sobibor death camp, recommending in closing arguments that the retired U.S. auto worker be convicted of accessory to murder and sentenced to six years in prison.

Hans-Joachim Lutz told the Munich state court Tuesday that even though there is no evidence Demjanjuk committed a specific crime, he should be found guilty as accessory because, as a guard, he was part of the Nazis' machinery of death.

"Concrete killings are not known, but that is not necessary in view of the routine, industrial way the killing was carried out," Lutz the panel of judges who have been hearing the case since November 2009.

Ukraine-born Demjanjuk, 90, denies having ever served as a Nazi death camp guard, saying he was a soldier in the Red Army who was captured by the Germans and then spent most of the rest of the war as a prisoner himself.

But the prosecution argues that after his capture, he volunteered to serve the Germans as a guard.

"The accused participated willingly in the killing of the Jews out of racist, ideological reasons," Lutz told the court.

The retired Ohio auto worker lay in bed, as he has for most of the trial, wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap pulled down low, listening closely to his Ukrainian interpreter as Lutz detailed his case to the court.

Lutz said the evidence had shown there was "no reasonable doubt" that Demjanjuk served at the camp, citing six historical documents implicating him in connection with Sobibor _ including a photo identity card indicating he had been posted there.

The defense has argued that the card is a fake, but Lutz said experts had declared it original even though the photograph might have been removed and reattached.

"The picture on the identity card shows the defendant ... and it has been proven that this is the original photograph," he told the court.

Outside the court, defense attorney Ulrich Busch continued to question the validity of the evidence that had been presented.

"The whole trial is just based on assumptions and speculation," he said.

Lutz asked for conviction on "at least 27,900" counts of accessory to murder in connection with the people killed at Sobibor when Demjanjuk was allegedly there in 1943. There is no consecutive sentencing in Germany, and the charges carry a maximum of 15 years total in prison.

Lutz said he was asking for six years to take into account the defendant's age, and time served in Israel where he was convicted in 1988 of being the notorious guard "Ivan the Terrible" at another death camp, Treblinka. That conviction was overturned by Israel's high court five years later as a case of mistaken identity.

Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., accused the German court of a miscarriage of justice and promised an appeal if his father was convicted.

"For any prosecutor, much less a German one, to ask him to suffer even one day for the crimes of the Germans and their coerced POWs is a grotesque political manipulation of the legal system and will come back to haunt Germany for many years," he said in an e-mail.

A verdict is not expected until May.


Rising reported from Berlin