There is no rest for the evil. We learned that two weeks ago when Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, and again today when 91-year -old John Demjanjuk was convicted in Germany for his complicity in the murder of 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in 1943.
Demjanjuk spent most of his life leading a “normal life” as an Auto Worker in Cleveland, but has been fighting to avoid paying for his murderous past for the last 30 years.
He was deported to Israel in 1986 and later sentenced to death there in 1988 for war crimes, based on his identification as “Ivan the Terrible”, a notorious prisoner/guard at the Treblinka and Sobibor extermination camps during the period 1942–1943 who committed murder and acts of horrible savagery against camp prisoners.
The conviction was overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1993. The judges decided that that Demjanjuk was definitely a war criminal, but there was the possibility he was was not “Ivan the Terrible” but some other criminal. They ruled that he definitely committed war crimes at Sobibor, but since he was convicted of committing crimes at Sobibor and Treblinka, the conviction was overturned and he was sent back to the United States.
In 2004 Demjanjuk once again lost his American citizenship, this time they DOJ cut out the Ivan part and concentrated on his crimes while serving as as a guard at the Sobibór and Majdanek camps in Poland under German occupation and at the Flossenburg camp in Germany.
After five years of legal wrangling, Demjanjuk was finally deported and arrived in Germany for trial on May 12 2009.
In the last days of the trail, which lasted 18 months, Demjanjuk’s attorney, while arguing for his client’s acquittal said the alleged former guard suffered “as much as the Jews did at the hands of Nazis,” proving once again that the man responsible for killing at least 29,000 human beings has no regret for his action.
Today he was convicted of thousands of counts of acting as an accessory to murder and sentenced to a 5 year prison term by a German Court. The reason for the short sentence is that charges of accessory to murder carry a maximum term of 15 years in Germany, but they do not allow consecutive sentences for multiple counts of the same crime. The Judge took into account the five years Demjanjuk served in an Israeli prison for the same crimes when deciding his sentence.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter, Efraim Zuroff, called the conviction “a very important victory for justice.”
“The verdict sends a very powerful message that, even many years after the crimes of the Holocaust the perpetrators can be brought to justice,” he said by telephone from Jerusalem. “We’re hopeful that this verdict will pave the way for additional prosecutions in Germany.”
The truth is that the length of time John Demjanjuk serves in jail is not important. It is the fact that the world did not rest until he was convicted, that is important. There will be those who will argue “why bother with a 91-year-old? My response to them is the same as the answer to those who argue the length of the conviction.
The trial and conviction of John Demjanjuk is so more than the punishment of one horrible war criminal. It is also a message to criminals like him, and people who would consider similar acts, “You might escape justice at first, but you will never rest, for the rest of your life you will be hunted down until you are brought to justice–if it takes almost ten years as in the case of Bin laden, or if it takes 70 years as in the case of John Demjanjuk.”