Department of Justice Press Release May 12, 2009
WASHINGTON – John Demjanjuk, a former Nazi death camp guard and a resident of Seven Hills, Ohio, has been removed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to Germany, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and ICE Acting Assistant Secretary John P. Torres announced today. Demjanjuk was removed through a court order of removal obtained by the Department of Justice. On March 10, 2009, a German judge issued an order directing that Demjanjuk, 89, be arrested on suspicion of assisting in the murder of at least 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor extermination center in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. In addition to serving at Sobibor, Demjanjuk served the SS as an armed guard of civilian prisoners in Germany at the Nazi-operated Flossenbürg Concentration Camp in Germany and at Majdanek concentration camp and the Trawniki training and forced labor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Demjanjuk was first tried on allegations of participation in Nazi persecution in a civil denaturalization (citizenship revocation) case decided in 1981. Relying principally on witness testimony, a federal court found at that time that Demjanjuk was a notorious gas chamber operator at the Treblinka extermination center known to prisoners as “Ivan the Terrible.” He was extradited in 1986 to Israel, where he was tried and convicted. However, after the Israeli Supreme Court found that reasonable doubt existed as to whether Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible, he was released and returned to the United States in 1993.
In 1999, the Department of Justice initiated a new denaturalization case against Demjanjuk, relying in large part on captured Nazi documents that came to light following the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. In revoking his citizenship in 2002, the district court found that, in addition to serving at Sobibor, where approximately 250,000 Jewish men, women, and children were murdered, Demjanjuk had served as an armed guard at Majdanek, a concentration camp and extermination center at which at least 170,000 victims perished. The court also found that Demjanjuk served at
Flossenbürg, where t housands of prisoners, confined solely because of their race, religion, national origin or political opinion, died as a result of the inhumane conditions , or were murdered.
The removal of Demjanjuk to Germany was effected through close cooperation between the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and State. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in this matter. Demjanjuk’s removal is part of OSI’s continuing efforts to identify, investigate and take legal action against participants in Nazi crimes of persecution who reside in the United States. Since OSI began operations in 1979, it has won cases against 107 individuals who participated in Nazi crimes of persecution. In addition, attempts to enter the United States by more than 180 individuals implicated in wartime Axis crimes have been prevented as a result of OSI’s “Watch List” program, which is enforced in cooperation with the Departments of State and Homeland Security.
“The removal to Germany of John Demjanjuk is an historic moment in the federal government’s efforts to bring Nazi war criminals to justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. “Mr. Demjanjuk, a confirmed former Nazi death camp guard, denied to thousands the very freedoms he enjoyed for far too long in the United States. Now, finally, Mr. Demjanjuk has been held accountable in one small way for his part in one of the most horrific chapters in history.”
Demjanjuk, a retired auto worker who was born in present-day Ukraine, immigrated to the United States in 1952 by concealing from U.S. immigration authorities his true whereabouts during World War II and his Nazi camp guard service. As a former Sobibor guard, Demjanjuk is only the second person to be removed from the United States after having served at one of the four Nazi camps constructed solely to murder civilians. In 2002, the U.S. District Court in Cleveland revoked Demjanjuk’s naturalized U.S. citizenship after a two-week trial prosecuted by the Criminal Division’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI). Chief Judge Paul R. Matia found that Demjanjuk participated at the Sobibor extermination center in “the process by which thousands of Jews were murdered by asphyxiation with carbon monoxide” in the camp’s gas chambers. In December 2005, then Chief Immigration Judge Michael J. Creppy ordered Demjanjuk removed from the United States to Ukraine, Germany or Poland. In May 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Demjanjuk’s petition for review.
OSI Director Eli M. Rosenbaum stated, “John Demjanjuk’s actions helped seal the fate of thousands of innocent people during the Holocaust. He has at last received his summons from history.”
“Millions have sought refuge from persecution in this country under liberty’s mantle. We will not suffer persecutors and mass murderers tarnishing her image by staking such a claim for themselves,” said John P. Torres, ICE Acting Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security. “The U.S. government is dedicated to preventing the cynical exploitation of our nation’s immigration system by the worst of the worst. With John Demjanjuk’s removal, we reaffirm our commitment to protection of the oppressed, not the oppressor.”
Check out the new addition to this site. The News tab at the top of the page.