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Was the American pensioner Ivan Demyanyuk a Nazi overseer "Ivan the Terrible"
Was the American pensioner Ivan Demyanyuk a Nazi overseer "Ivan the Terrible"

On May 12, 2011, the Munich court pronounced the verdict, which was the latest in a long series of years of proceedings. A 90-year-old man was sitting in the dock. The accused did not fully admit his guilt in aiding the Nazis, in atrocities and executions, in the fact that it was he who was nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible" in the Nazi camp of Treblinka for his sadism and torture of prisoners. The case of an old retired man from America resulted in a serious international scandal that lasted about 40 years. Demjanjuk expected the appeal of the last verdict not in prison, but in a nursing home in one of the Bavarian resorts. It was there, at the age of 92, that he died.

Honest US Citizen John Demjanjuk

John Demjanjuk lived for many years as an honest US citizen who emigrated overseas from Europe after the war. In the documents, by the way, he indicated that he was a prisoner of a German concentration camp and is a victim of fascism. Since the 1950s, a new member of American society has lived in Cleveland, Ohio, worked as a diesel mechanic at a Ford plant, and was a wonderful family man. However, in the 1970s, he was included in the lists of persons whom the Soviet and Israeli governments reported to the United States as possible accomplices of the Nazis. In addition, in 1977, several former prisoners of the terrible Treblinka death camp recognized in a photograph of an honest American pensioner, the executioner and sadist "Ivan the Terrible."

The surviving prisoners told terrible details - that, as an operator of diesel engines, it was this man who carried out mass executions with the help of exhaust gases in closed cells, before this brutally beating doomed people, some he himself beat to death. From the Sobibor camp, information was received about a similar overseer, who also worked with gas chambers and received the nickname "Bath attendant". However, this latter charge, for lack of evidence, was never really considered. John Demjanjuk faced many years of trials and proceedings, during which his case acquired an international resonance, and the details of his fate became public.

From the Komsomol to the police

Ivan Nikolaevich Demyanyuk was born on April 3, 1920 in a small Ukrainian village in Vinnitsa region. Little is known about his childhood, mainly that the former warden himself told the investigation about himself. Therefore, the picture of his youth appears bleak - a poor and hungry peasant life, he attended school only until grade 4, since, according to him, there was nothing to go further - there was not enough clothes. However, there is information that Ivan worked as a tractor driver before the army, and in 1938 he joined the Komsomol. He entered the service in 1941, just before the start of the war. He served in Bessarabia in the artillery troops, then, after being wounded and treated in a hospital, he fought near Kerch and it was there that he was taken prisoner by the Germans.

There is information that his father also went to the police and that his son later tried to contact his parents. However, Demjanjuk gave different information about his later life in different years. At first, he argued that, until 1945, together with other prisoners of war, he dug ditches and unloaded wagons, and only at the very end of the war he became part of the Russian Liberation Army (ROA) under the command of Andrei Vlasov, where he was a simple soldier in the security service.

Demjanjuk is taken from the courtroom to his cell, 1988

Extradition to Israel

In February 1986, Ivan Demyanyuk was extradited from the United States to Israel and appeared before a specially convened tribunal. The investigation had an important piece of evidence - an SS certificate, on which the young "John" can be easily recognized from the photograph.In addition to the testimony of eyewitnesses, there were many facts against him: a poorly reduced armpit tattoo with a blood group (such were done in the SS to all prisoners who were ready to cooperate with the Germans), a characteristic scar on the back, which coincided in description with the marks of "Ivan the Terrible" and 18 witnesses who recognized him by sight. In April 1988, Demjanjuk was sentenced to death by hanging. However, he did not admit his guilt, his lawyers appealed the decision of the tribunal, which dragged out the case for many more years.

Fragment of the SS ID of Ivan Demjanjuk

The Nazi criminal was saved by the fact that after the collapse of the USSR, secret materials of the interrogation of German prisoners of war by the KGB were made public. The new data made it possible to doubt that he really was "Ivan the Terrible" - it turned out that the surname of that was Marchenko (that in the documents for emigration Demjanjuk indicated this very surname as his mother's maiden, he explained in a simple way: "mixed up, they say, after all, Marchenko is one of the most common surnames in Ukraine "). In July 1993, during the review of the case, it was possible to prove that initially the hearings were conducted with violations, as a result of which Demjanjuk not only managed to avoid the rope. He was released, which came as a shock to the Israeli public.

Demjanjuk shows the acquittal of the Israeli court

Years of litigation

In the following decades, this case became a real bone of contention. A series of mutual reproaches followed between the countries concerned: the USSR was accused of forging documents in this case, the USA - of harboring a criminal, Germany - of being ready to shift all the blame for the atrocities of the Nazis on collaborators. Demjanjuk was deprived of his American citizenship, then his passport was returned. Already an elderly former Nazi was going to be deported to Ukraine, Poland or Germany.

The new court case, started in 2001, lasted almost ten years, until the extradition of Demjanjuk to Germany was achieved. However, the health of the accused had already become an important issue - he was already well over 80, and lawyers assured that he was confined to a wheelchair, and the trip and the court would undoubtedly kill the unfortunate. However, in May 2009, a video was filmed with a hidden camera. On the recording, Demjanjuk, without any stroller, walked around the store, made purchases, and then got behind the wheel. The accused was immediately taken to an immigration center and sent to Germany, where he was again brought to trial.

Ivan Demjanjuk at the last court hearings in Munich in 2011

Now he was accused of complicity in the murder of almost 28 thousand people, mostly Jews - the fact that Demjanjuk served as an overseer in the Sobibor concentration camp was no longer in doubt. By the way, the authenticity of the SS certificate was confirmed by a new examination this time, therefore, it is at least unreasonable to declare that this document is a gross forgery of the work of the KGB, as is done in many articles so far. Almost two years later, on May 12, 2011, the Munich Regional Court found the accused guilty and sentenced him to imprisonment for five years. It was no longer possible to collect reliable information about Demjanjuk's service in other camps.

Demjanjuk's case lasted about 40 years and his materials turned into a real "library"

The lawyers decided once again to appeal against this verdict. The judge himself stated that the defendant should be released due to his advanced age. It was decided that he would wait for the appeal in a nursing home in the spa town of Bad Feilnbach. However, Demunyuk did not wait for a new review of his case. He died just half a month before his 92nd birthday.

The trial of the Nazi criminal itself caused a wide public outcry. Demjanjuk had many sympathizers and even supporters. By the way, three children also defended their father to the last. This case turned out to be painful in many ways - legislative norms of different countries, old and new national conflicts, issues of ethics and humanity … There is still debate about whether Demjanjuk was really guilty of atrocities or whether he simply became a victim of circumstances and turned into a “scapegoat” for all the horrors of the war."

Read on: The blond devil from Auschwitz: How a young beauty who tortured thousands of people in a concentration camp became a symbol of sophisticated cruelty

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