U.S. takes steps to deport alleged Nazi to Germany

CLEVELAND (AP) âÄî The U.S. government said Tuesday it is asking German officials for travel documents needed to deport accused World War II Nazi guard John Demjanjuk, who is charged in Europe with 29,000 counts of accessory to murder. Immigration and Customs Enforcement provided an e-mail to The Associated Press showing that it has contacted the German government in its effort to deport Demjanjuk, once accused but ultimately cleared of being a notorious guard at the Treblinka concentration camp in occupied Poland. The 88-year-old suburban Cleveland man was charged in Germany in March with crimes while working as a guard at Sobibor, a Nazi death camp in Poland. His son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said Tuesday that his father remains at home and is not in federal custody. The German warrant seeks the deportation or extradition of Demjanjuk, who lives in Seven Hills and denies involvement in any deaths. Prosecutors in Munich, Germany, said Demjanjuk (pronounced dem-YAHN’-yuk) will be formally charged in front of a judge once he is extradited. “In this capacity, he participated in the accessory to murder of at least 29,000 people of the Jewish faith,” the prosecutor’s office has said. It is handling the case because Demjanjuk spent time at a refugee camp in the area after the war. The suspect’s family has said he is in poor health and unable to travel. “My dad spent a few hours in the emergency room the other day,” John Demjanjuk Jr. said. “He is being treated for kidney stones at present.” He said his father has chronic kidney disease, along with other serious ailments. Kurt Schrimm, head of the special German prosecutors’ office that has hunted Nazis since 1958 and who asked Munich prosecutors to pursue Demjanjuk’s extradition, declined to comment Tuesday. Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based human rights organization, welcomed the development. “We’re very pleased that these steps are being taken to facilitate Demjanjuk’s extradition to Germany so that he can be tried and can be given an appropriate punishment for his heinous crimes during World War II,” Zuroff told The Associated Press by phone from Jerusalem. German Justice Ministry spokesman Ulrich Staudegle said he could not confirm that U.S. authorities had requested any specific documents, but reiterated that the German government was working closely with the U.S. to secure Demjanjuk’s extradition or deportation. Demjanjuk became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1958 and has never been convicted of war crimes in a domestic court. But a federal judge in Cleveland in 2002 stripped him of his U.S. citizenship, saying prosecutors proved in a trial to determine his citizenship status that he served the Nazi regime for more than two years during World War II as a guard. He was accused in 1977 of concealing a past as a notorious Nazi death camp guard known as “Ivan the Terrible” at Treblinka. He was extradited to Israel in 1986 and two years later was sentenced to death after being found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He appealed, and in 1993 Israel’s top court ruled 5-0 that Demjanjuk was not “Ivan the Terrible.” He was allowed to return to the United States. The chief U.S. immigration judge ruled in 2005 that Demjanjuk could be deported to Germany, Poland or Ukraine. The U.S. Supreme Court in May declined to hear an appeal of the deportation ruling. ___ Associated Press writers Patrick McGroarty and Vanessa Gera in Berlin contributed to this report.