John Demjanjuk Accused of Nazi Attrocities Again

Ivan the Terribly Difficult to Identify (Atlantic Monthly)

John Demjanjuk, an ailing eighty-four-year-old retired auto worker, has already been expelled from the United States once before: in 1986, after he was identified as “Ivan the Terrible,” a notorious Ukrainian gas-chamber operator at Treblinka. He was tried in Israel and sentenced to hang. Then the Israeli Supreme Court decided that American Nazi hunters had the wrong man, and returned him to Ohio. [On June 30] the United States will make another attempt to deport him, in a hearing based on evidence that Demjanjuk worked at three other death camps, where 450,000 people were murdered.

It’s phenomenal to me that the U.S. government has ruined this man’s life, been proven woefully wrong by a source hardly sympathetic to Demjanjuk, and continues to hound him.

Update (May 8): Soccer Dad argues, rather persuasively, that Demjanjuk is indeed guilty of the crimes of which he has been charged and that it was merely the scrupulous quality of the Israeli courts, especially the Sanhedrin, that allowed his release. My memories of this very old case are cloudy, indeed.

I was sympathetic to Demjanjuk at the time because sending old men who are U.S. citizens to be tried in foreign courts for crimes they were alleged to have committed several decades earlier bothers me.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. whatever says:

    The Nazi hunters are running out of people to chase, so they go after lower and lower rung people, and if they snare someone who doesn’t really belong – well, they figure, so what.

    Remember that this is a government funded program, so in an effort to keep that funding they’ll point the finger at anyone they figure can’t fight back.