In what may turn out to be the last World War Two war crimes trial, 91 year old John Demjanjuk has been found guilty of helping to murder more than 28,000 Jews at the Nazi death camp of Sobibor in what is now Poland. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but will be released pending appeal.
Demjanjuk told the court in Munich that he had not served as a guard at the camp, and that he was a prisoner of war. The case turned on an SS identity card, which the defence claimed was a fake. In all, an estimated 250,000 people were killed at Sobibor.
In the 1980’s, an Israeli court indentified Demjanjuk as ‘Ivan the Terrible’, a notorious guard at the Treblinka death camp, and sentenced him to death, but the country’s supreme court overturned the verdict after new evidence emerged.
Some of the relatives of those who died at Sobibor said the verdict on Demjanjuk was not the most important thing. They were satisfied that a court in the city where the Nazi party was born had had to listen to the details of the industrialised murder machine that Hitler’s regime created. (See also my blog of Nov 30, 2009.)