Germany is, for the first time, trying a non-citizen
for crimes committed as part of the Holocaust. John Demjanjuk, originally from Ukraine, is an 89-year-old man, retired US auto factory worker, and former US citizen who has been deported and charged with 27,900 murders
for the part he may have played in World War II. This is the second time
Demjanjuk has been tried.
In 1988 Demanjujk, then believed to be "Ivan the Terrible" of Treblinka
, was convicted in Israel and sentenced to death. Israeli judges later found that, although there was evidence that Demanjujk served as an SS guard, he was not in fact the man known as "Ivan the Terrible."
Now German prosecutors say Demanjujk worked as a guard at the death camp of Sobibor
in Poland in 1943, after he was captured by the Nazis.
Some fear that the German government is setting a frightening precedent
with this trial, deflecting responsibility to a man whom Nazis would have seen as an Untermensch,
or sub-human, and who claims he is not a perpetrator but a victim. Others
say the trial is "too little, too late" and fear that, because Demanjujk is in poor health and had to be wheeled into the courtroom on a gurney Monday afternoon, he will become an object of pity.