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The Netflix Documentary on Accused Nazi War Criminal John Demjanjuk

mikegriffith1

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Yesterday I stumbled across the 2019 five-part Netflix documentary on accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk, The Devil Next Door. Demjanjuk (pronounced dem-yan-yuk), a Ukrainian who immigrated to the U.S. after WW II, was extradited to Israel and then convicted by an Israeli court in 1988 of being Ivan the Terrible at the Treblinka death camp, and was sentenced to death by hanging. But, in 1993, based on new evidence from Soviet archives, the Israeli supreme court, in a unanimous decision, overturned the conviction and declared Demjanjuk innocent, saying that the new evidence raised reasonable doubt about his guilt.

Demjanjuk then had his U.S. citizenship restored and he returned to Cleveland, Ohio, to live with his family.

However, 16 years later, in 2009, the DOJ's Office of Special Investigations (OSI) succeeded in getting Demjanjuk's citizenship revoked again and had him deported to Germany to stand trial. Years earlier, a U.S. court had found that OSI had withheld exculpatory evidence from Demjanjuk's lawyers during his first extradition hearing.

In 2011, a German court convicted Demjanjuk of being an accessory to murder because he allegedly served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp. The court abandoned the earlier claim that Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible, since considerable evidence indicated that he could not have been that man, and since there was no documentary evidence that he was ever at Treblinka. Instead, the court concluded that he was automatically guilty of enabling murder because he served as a guard at Sobibor.

As many here know, I am about as pro-Israeli as you can get. Having been raised Jewish for part of my childhood and having a long-standing love for Israel and all things Israeli, I have no problem with the prosecution of genuine Nazi war criminals. But, I have serious doubts about the case against Demjanjuk.

The three "eyewitnesses" at his Israeli trial were not credible. One of them was clearly senile. One of them had repeatedly failed to identify Demjanjuk as Ivan the Terrible when first interviewed by police investigators but instead had identified another man who looked very different from Demjanjuk. And one of them was found to have claimed in 1947 that he personally took part in the killing of Ivan the Terrible during the uprising at Treblinka in August 1943 (a written account of his claim surfaced during the trial). Also, leaked OSI documents revealed that some OSI investigators doubted that Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible, noting, among other things, marked differences in their descriptions and background (including a 5-inch height disparity).

If Demjanjuk had been a senior officer at Sobibor, I could see prosecuting him. But prosecuting someone because they served as a lowly guard is drastic overkill, unless there is credible evidence that they committed acts of cruelty. Even then, the acts would have to be fairly severe to warrant prosecution decades after the fact.

Yes, Demjanjuk almost certainly lied when he denied being a guard at Sobibor. It's not hard to understand why anyone would not want to admit they had been a guard at a death camp. But lying about having been a death-camp guard does not prove that the person committed war crimes.

When judging low-level participants in the Holocaust, I do think we need to consider the kinds of lives they lived after the war. By all accounts, Demjanjuk was a model citizen. He worked at the Ford plant in Cleveland and later retired from Ford with a pension. He was loved and respected by all who knew him, as far as anyone has been able to determine. His neighbors and fellow churchgoers who were asked about him universally, to every man and woman, said he was a kind and decent man, and that they could not believe he had committed war crimes. Every member of his family ardently stood by him during his two trials and have never wavered in declaring their belief in his innocence.

The Netflix documentary is fairly balanced. It fails to mention a few key facts that challenge OSI's claims, but overall it does a pretty good job of giving both sides of the story.
 
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Polishprince

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Yesterday I stumbled across Netflix's 2019 five-part documentary on accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk, The Devil Next Door. Demjanjuk (pronounced dem-yan-yuk), a Ukrainian who immigrated to the U.S. after WW II, was extradited to Israel and then convicted by an Israeli court in 1988 of being Ivan the Terrible at the Treblinka death camp, and was sentenced to death by hanging. But, in 1993, based on new evidence from Soviet archives, the Israeli supreme court overturned the conviction and declared Demjanjuk innocent, saying that the new evidence raised reasonable doubt about his guilt.

Demjanjuk then had his U.S. citizenship restored and he returned to Cleveland, Ohio, to live with his family.

However, 16 years later, in 2009, the DOJ's Office of Special Investigations (OSI) succeeded in getting Demjanjuk's citizenship revoked again and had him deported to Germany to stand trial. Years earlier, a U.S. court had found that OSI had withheld exculpatory evidence from Demjanjuk's lawyers during his first extradition hearing.

In 2011, a German court convicted Demjanjuk of being an accessory to murder because he allegedly served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp. The court abandoned the earlier claim that Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible, since considerable evidence indicated that he could not have been that man, and since there was no documentary evidence that he was ever at Treblinka. Instead, the court concluded that he was automatically guilty of enabling murder because he served as a guard at Sobibor.

As many here know, I am about as pro-Israeli as you can get. Having been raised Jewish for part of my childhood and having a long-standing love for Israel and all things Israeli, I have no problem with the prosecution of genuine Nazi war criminals. But, I have serious doubts about the case against Demjanjuk.

The three "eyewitnesses" at his Israeli trial were not credible. One of them was clearly senile. One of them had repeatedly failed to identify Demjanjuk as Ivan the Terrible when first interviewed by police investigators but instead had identified another man who looked very different from Demjanjuk. And one of them was found to have claimed in 1947 that he personally took part in the killing of Ivan the Terrible during the uprising at Treblinka in August 1943 (a written account of his claim surfaced during the trial). Also, leaked OSI documents revealed that some OSI investigators doubted that Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible, noting, among other things, marked differences in their descriptions and background (including a 5-inch height disparity).

If Demjanjuk had been a senior officer at Sobibor, I could see prosecuting him. But prosecuting someone because they served as a lowly guard is drastic overkill, unless there is credible evidence that they committed acts of cruelty. Even then, the acts would have to be fairly severe to warrant prosecution decades after the fact.

Yes, Demjanjuk almost certainly lied when he denied being a guard at Sobibor. It's not hard to understand why anyone would not want to admit they had been a guard at a death camp. But lying about having been a death-camp guard does not prove that the person committed war crimes.

When judging low-level participants in the Holocaust, I do think we need to consider the kinds of lives they lived after the war. By all accounts, Demjanjuk was a model citizen. He worked at the Ford plant in Cleveland and later retired from Ford with a pension. He was loved and respected by all who knew him, as far as anyone has been able to determine. His neighbors and fellow churchgoers who were asked about him universally, to every man and woman, said he was a kind and decent man, and that they could not believe he had committed war crimes. Every member of his family ardently stood by him during his two trials and have never wavered in declaring their belief in his innocence.

The Netflix documentary is fairly balanced. It fails to mention a few key facts that challenge OSI's claims, but overall it does a pretty good job of giving both sides of the story.


What I didn't understand about the Demjanjuk case is why the German government would have the balls to try the case. Mr. Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian national who was accused of following the orders of the German government after he was imprisoned himself.

How could the German Government try him from merely following their own instructions?
 
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mikegriffith1

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What I didn't understand about the Demjanjuk case is why the German government would have the balls to try the case. Mr. Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian national who was accused of following the orders of the German government after he was imprisoned himself.

How could the German Government try him from merely following their own instructions?

Yeah, the DOJ opted for Germany because Ukraine said they would not prosecute him--for some of the same reasons you mention. Demjanjuk's German defense attorneys made the point that prosecuting him in Germany was a form of double-jeopardy, since he had been exonerated by the Israeli supreme court.
 

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I guess every guard in every concentration camp run by Nazis is guilty of enabling murder. Interesting concept. There probably ain't but a handful left if that so it's a moot point anyway.
 
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mikegriffith1

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I guess every guard in every concentration camp run by Nazis is guilty of enabling murder.

Really? How about the American and Allied guards who were on duty when at least 600,000 German POWs in various American and French POW camps were allowed to starve or freeze to death after the war? Read James Bacque's book Other Losses: An Investigation into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners at the Hands of the French and Americans after World War II (Third Edition, 2011), with a foreword written by Colonel Ernest F. Fisher, who in 1945 took part in investigations into allegations of misconduct by U.S. troops in Germany and later became a senior historian with the United States Army. It's a sad, shocking tale.

If you read former SS soldier Gustav Palm's memoir, Escaping Hitler, you find out that most of the non-German guards were practically prisoners themselves. Palm, a Norwegian who joined the SS to fight Soviet communism, was assigned to guard a concentration camp for political prisoners. When he realized what was going on, he tried to quit. He was quickly made to understand that quitting was not an option, unless he wanted to end up dead.

Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian who understandably hated the Soviets. The Soviets had killed well over one million Ukrainians since coming to power. So it's no shocker that he was willing to serve the Germans when given the chance. The German prosecutors spent years trying to find evidence that Demjanjuk had committed some specific war crime, but they could find no such evidence, so they convicted him for simply having been a guard at Sobibor.
 

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Really? How about the American and Allied guards who were on duty when at least 600,000 German POWs in various American and French POW camps were allowed to starve or freeze to death after the war? Read James Bacque's book Other Losses: An Investigation into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners at the Hands of the French and Americans after World War II (Third Edition, 2011), with a foreword written by Colonel Ernest F. Fisher, who in 1945 took part in investigations into allegations of misconduct by U.S. troops in Germany and later became a senior historian with the United States Army. It's a sad, shocking tale.

If you read former SS soldier Gustav Palm's memoir, Escaping Hitler, you find out that most of the non-German guards were practically prisoners themselves. Palm, a Norwegian who joined the SS to fight Soviet communism, was assigned to guard a concentration camp for political prisoners. When he realized what was going on, he tried to quit. He was quickly made to understand that quitting was not an option, unless he wanted to end up dead.

Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian who understandably hated the Soviets. The Soviets had killed well over one million Ukrainians since coming to power. So it's no shocker that he was willing to serve the Germans when given the chance. The German prosecutors spent years trying to find evidence that Demjanjuk had committed some specific war crime, but they could find no such evidence, so they convicted him for simply having been a guard at Sobibor.
Say what? Is it alleged that American and Allies allowed German prisoners to freeze and starve to death...after the war? That's gotta be a lie or maybe the "allies" in question were the Russians.
 
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Say what? Is it alleged that American and Allies allowed German prisoners to freeze and starve to death...after the war? That's gotta be a lie or maybe the "allies" in question were the Russians.

No, they were American-run, British-run, and French-run POW camps. You've never heard about this? Gustav Palm, a former SS soldier who later converted to Christianity and married a Jewish girl, reported in his memoir, Surviving Hitler [not Escaping Hitler], that at the British-run POW camp at Neuengamme, the guards would randomly shoot into the camp, usually killing one or two prisoners per day in the process. He said that when the guards would start to shoot, he and other POWs would dive to the floor.
 
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No, they were American-run, British-run, and French-run POW camps. You've never heard about this? Gustav Palm, a former SS soldier who later converted to Christianity and married a Jewish girl, reported in his memoir, Surviving Hitler [not Escaping Hitler], that at the British-run POW camp at Neuengamme, the guards would randomly shoot into the camp, usually killing one or two prisoners per day in the process. He said that when the guards would start to shoot, he and other POWs would dive to the floor.

This is not to excuse in any way the starving and freezing of hundreds of thousands of German POWs, but we should remember that the American and Allied officers and soldiers were learning about the horrors of the Holocaust at the same time they were managing and guarding the German POWs. One can understand that these shocking revelations left American and Allied officers and soldiers with feelings of hatred and outrage toward the German POWs.

But this cannot be viewed as a valid excuse. The Japanese army officers who supervised American POWs frequently mentioned the American fire-bombing of Japanese cities and the resulting deaths of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians as their reason for treating the POWs abusively. We justifiably refused to consider this as a valid excuse for the failure of the Japanese army to treat POWs humanely, partially because the Japanese treated POWs harshly long before the fire-bombing raids began.
 

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Really? How about the American and Allied guards who were on duty when at least 600,000 German POWs in various American and French POW camps were allowed to starve or freeze to death after the war
if the Germans cannot drown us in our blood they will drown us in their tears
Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian who understandably hated the Soviet
he hated them... Well that's all right then
 

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Yesterday I stumbled across the 2019 five-part Netflix documentary on accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk, The Devil Next Door. Demjanjuk (pronounced dem-yan-yuk), a Ukrainian who immigrated to the U.S. after WW II, was extradited to Israel and then convicted by an Israeli court in 1988 of being Ivan the Terrible at the Treblinka death camp, and was sentenced to death by hanging. But, in 1993, based on new evidence from Soviet archives, the Israeli supreme court, in a unanimous decision, overturned the conviction and declared Demjanjuk innocent, saying that the new evidence raised reasonable doubt about his guilt.

Demjanjuk then had his U.S. citizenship restored and he returned to Cleveland, Ohio, to live with his family.

However, 16 years later, in 2009, the DOJ's Office of Special Investigations (OSI) succeeded in getting Demjanjuk's citizenship revoked again and had him deported to Germany to stand trial. Years earlier, a U.S. court had found that OSI had withheld exculpatory evidence from Demjanjuk's lawyers during his first extradition hearing.

In 2011, a German court convicted Demjanjuk of being an accessory to murder because he allegedly served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp. The court abandoned the earlier claim that Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible, since considerable evidence indicated that he could not have been that man, and since there was no documentary evidence that he was ever at Treblinka. Instead, the court concluded that he was automatically guilty of enabling murder because he served as a guard at Sobibor.

As many here know, I am about as pro-Israeli as you can get. Having been raised Jewish for part of my childhood and having a long-standing love for Israel and all things Israeli, I have no problem with the prosecution of genuine Nazi war criminals. But, I have serious doubts about the case against Demjanjuk.

The three "eyewitnesses" at his Israeli trial were not credible. One of them was clearly senile. One of them had repeatedly failed to identify Demjanjuk as Ivan the Terrible when first interviewed by police investigators but instead had identified another man who looked very different from Demjanjuk. And one of them was found to have claimed in 1947 that he personally took part in the killing of Ivan the Terrible during the uprising at Treblinka in August 1943 (a written account of his claim surfaced during the trial). Also, leaked OSI documents revealed that some OSI investigators doubted that Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible, noting, among other things, marked differences in their descriptions and background (including a 5-inch height disparity).

If Demjanjuk had been a senior officer at Sobibor, I could see prosecuting him. But prosecuting someone because they served as a lowly guard is drastic overkill, unless there is credible evidence that they committed acts of cruelty. Even then, the acts would have to be fairly severe to warrant prosecution decades after the fact.

Yes, Demjanjuk almost certainly lied when he denied being a guard at Sobibor. It's not hard to understand why anyone would not want to admit they had been a guard at a death camp. But lying about having been a death-camp guard does not prove that the person committed war crimes.

When judging low-level participants in the Holocaust, I do think we need to consider the kinds of lives they lived after the war. By all accounts, Demjanjuk was a model citizen. He worked at the Ford plant in Cleveland and later retired from Ford with a pension. He was loved and respected by all who knew him, as far as anyone has been able to determine. His neighbors and fellow churchgoers who were asked about him universally, to every man and woman, said he was a kind and decent man, and that they could not believe he had committed war crimes. Every member of his family ardently stood by him during his two trials and have never wavered in declaring their belief in his innocence.

The Netflix documentary is fairly balanced. It fails to mention a few key facts that challenge OSI's claims, but overall it does a pretty good job of giving both sides of the story.
Woke Germany let them all go and now Is trying to paint a pretty picture

Israel only does death by burying you to your head or mass stoning
 
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mikegriffith1

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Woke Germany let them all go and now Is trying to paint a pretty picture

Israel only does death by burying you to your head or mass stoning

Israel does not have the death penalty, with the sole exception of Nazi war criminals, and the sentence is carried out by hanging.
 

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Utterly laughable to try a 90 yr old man from crimes in 1941-42
The longer the nazi criminals live, the more severe death they deserve.
 
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The longer the nazi criminals live, the more severe death they deserve.

You didn't read the OP, did you? Even the Israeli supreme court concluded that there was no firm evidence that Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible. For that matter, there's not one shred of documentary evidence that he was ever even at Treblinka. The three "eyewitnesses" who put Demjanjuk at Treblinka were not credible--two of them were severely impeached by the defense, and the third one was clearly senile.

Yes, Nazi war criminals, assuming you're talking about senior figures who knowingly ordered Jewish deportation, forced labor, and extermination, certainly deserve the death penalty. But Demjanjuk was a lowly Ukrainian guard who was pressed into guard duty after spending time as a prisoner of the Germans.
 

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