Rabbis urge U.S. government to deport ailing war crime suspect
Los Angeles --- Founders of a Jewish human rights agency urged the United States government to expedite the deportation of their most-wanted Nazi war criminal during a press conference at the Museum of Tolerance on Tuesday.
John Demjanjuk, 89, is accused of murdering 29,000 Jews at a death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, where he worked as a guard during World War II. The Simon Wiesenthal Center—named after the famous Nazi hunter—has made it public that Demjanjuk is number one on its most-wanted list of Nazi war criminals.
“John Demjanjuk made a living of murdering people,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “That’s what he did for breakfast, lunch and supper every day.”
Two weeks ago, immigration agents removed Demjanjuk, who was in a wheelchair, from his home in Ohio and took him to the airport. He was to be escorted on a flight to Germany, where he would stand trial. However, an appellate court in Cincinnati granted Demjanjuk a stay of deportation after his lawyers and family argued that he was too ill, and forcing him on a plane would amount to torture.
During the press conference, representatives from the center showed a video compiled and filed by the U.S. Department of Justice last week. The video included footage of Demjanjuk walking on his own and getting into the passenger side of a car.
“After the public views this video, we hope they will certainly join us in urging [Demjanjuk’s] immediate removal to Germany,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “Democratic Germany is ready, willing and able to put this man on trial.”
Representatives from the center also handed out copies of court documents, which included testimonies from several U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who closely observed or interacted with Demjanjuk prior to the attempted deportation. Five of the agents said in their testimonies that Demjanjuk showed visible signs that he was healthy enough to travel at a certain point during their interaction and observation of him. Another testimonial from the assistant director of ICE field operations stated that Demjanjuk was set to travel to Germany on a nonstop flight with a medical staff of two, one of whom is a flight surgeon.
Demjanjuk’s lawyer, John Broadley, was out of the office when contacted and did not respond to voicemails or emails asking him to comment on his client’s status.
At the press conference, Hier shared a letter addressed to him last week from Timothy J. Tubbs, the chief of staff of ICE’s office of detention and removal operations. “Please be assured… that [the U.S. Department of Homeland Security] will continue to work to affect Mr. Demjanjuk’s removal, and is prepared to remove Mr. Demjanjuk if and when the legal impediments to do so are lifted,” wrote Tubbs.
“Some people think it’s unseemly to kick out an 89-year-old man for crimes he committed in a war that took place half a century ago,” said Jean Rosenbluth, a clinical associate professor at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law. Rosenbluth is a former federal prosecutor and specializes in criminal law and immigration crimes. “But those crimes were so heinous and the only reason [Demjanjuk is] here is through his own actions.”
“When John Demjanjuk stands trial, it’s likely to be the last trial of a Nazi in Germany,” said Cooper. “Is it worthwhile? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’.”