Syria Genocide War Crimes

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Germany needs time to set Nazi death camp trial

July 21, 2009 - 9:21 AM

Germany needs time to set Nazi death camp trial

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German court may take until the end of August to set a date for the trial of John Demjanjuk, charged with helping to kill nearly 28,000 Jews at a death camp in World War Two, Munich court officials said on Tuesday. The long-awaited case is widely expected to be Germany's last big Nazi war crimes trial.

Demjanjuk, 89, has been held in a jail near Munich since he was deported from the United States in May, and prosecutors charged the suspected death camp guard earlier this month.

He has six weeks to respond, said the Munich court.

"The court will probably not make a decision on the opening of the main trial before the end of August," the court said in a statement. Prosecution and defence lawyers have said the trial could start in the autumn.

Der Spiegel magazine has reported that 22 witnesses are helping the prosecution with their case.

The retired U.S. car factory worker tops the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's list of most-wanted war criminals. The Centre says Demjanjuk pushed men, women and children into gas chambers at the Sobibor death camp in what is now Poland.

Demjanjuk denies any role in the Holocaust and his family argues he is too frail to stand trial.

Demjanjuk has said he was drafted into the Soviet army in 1941, became a German prisoner of war a year later and served at German prison camps until 1944. He emigrated to the United States in 1951 and became a naturalised citizen in 1958.

He was stripped of his U.S. citizenship after he was accused in the 1970s of being "Ivan the Terrible," a notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp.

He was extradited to Israel in 1986, tried and sentenced to death there in 1988, but Israel's Supreme Court overturned his conviction when new evidence showed another man was probably "Ivan."

Demjanjuk regained his citizenship, but the U.S. Justice Department refiled its case against him in 1999, arguing he had worked for the Nazis as a guard at three other death camps. His citizenship was stripped from him again in 2002.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers, editing by Mark Trevelyan)