Israeli Attorney Yoram Sheftel responded on Thursday to the conviction and sentence of John Demjanjuk in Munich.
Speaking to Arut
z Sheva’s Hebrew website, Sheftel said that the trial was distorted and unreal. “There was a shameful farce here,” he said. “Certainly the German court did not believe its own ruling.”
Demjanjuk, a 91-year-old retired Ohio auto worker, had been accused of committing war crimes as a former Nazi guard at the Sobibor death camp during World War II. Demjanjuk was charged with 28,060 counts of accessory to murder of those who died during the time he was allegedly guarding at the camp.
An SS identity card that allegedly pictured a young Demjanjuk, born in the Ukraine, showed that the guard was trained at the SS Trawniki camp and then was posted to Sobibor.
The German court sentenced him to five years in prison, although the court may decide to credit his time already served while being held in custody during the trial.
“There is no precedent in the 20th century in any legal system,” Sheftel said, “that a person who was convicted of helping to murder 28,000 people is released to his home immediately after his conviction and not sent to prison.”
Sheftel had served as Demjanjuk’s attorney when he was put on trial in Israel in the late 1980s, to face charges that he was the brutal Nazi-era Treblinka camp guard known as “Ivan the Terrible.”
Demjanjuk was convicted and sentenced to death in 1988, but appealed the decision and the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the death sentence in 1993, saying that new evidence from the collapsed Soviet Union introduced doubt that Demjanjuk was indeed Ivan the Terrible.
Sheftel said that he is convinced that the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling regarding Demjanjuk was the true verdict he deserved.
“Nothing has changed since then,” he said. “Even during the trial in Germany, there was not one person who testified that Demjanjuk was Ivan from Sobibor, by virtue that he was seen there, and as such the conviction is a farce.”
Meanwhile, Yad Vashem on Thursday welcomed Demjanjuk’s conviction, as did the retired Supreme Court judges, Tzvi Tal and Dalia Durner, who had presided at the first trial that convicted him.
“While no trial can bring back those that were murdered, holding those responsible to justice has an important moral and educational role in society,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. “The conviction today of Demjanuk underscores the fact that even though the policies of the ‘Final Solution’ - the systematic murder of six million European Jews -- were set and carried out by the German Nazi regime, the murder could not have taken place without the participation of myriads of Europeans on many levels. Their role was also criminal.”