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German Nazi trial ends with guilty verdict

May 12, 2011 at 10:25 AM   |   Comments

MUNICH, Germany, May 12 (UPI) -- A Munich court has sentenced John Demjanjuk to five years in prison for helping to murder Jews at a Nazi death camp during World War II, the end of what could enter history as the last Nazi trial in Germany.

His face hidden behind black sun glasses, Demjanjuk, 91, sat in a wheelchair when the judge in the Munich courthouse read the verdict. It accused the Ukraine-born man of helping to murder nearly 28,000 people between March and September 1943 as a guard at the Sobibor concentration camp in eastern Poland. An estimated 250,000 Jews -- many from Poland, but also from Western Europe -- died in the camp.

Demjanjuk denies having been a guard at Sobibor and has pleaded not guilty, saying he was a prisoner himself.

The prosecution based its case on an ID, issued by the infamous SS, that identifies Demjanjuk as one of the guards at Sobibor. The defendant says the ID is fake. His attorney, Ulrich Busch, has vowed to appeal the decision, Spiegel Online reports.

The defendant was born in Ukraine and fought in the Soviet army when he was captured by the Nazis. After World War II, Demjanjuk immigrated to the United States, where he worked as an auto mechanic near Cleveland, and gained U.S. citizenship.

In the late 1980s he was extradited to Israel. After spending five years in an Israeli prison, Demjanjuk in 1993 was cleared by the Israeli supreme court of being a notorious Treblinka guard called Ivan the Terrible.

For his actions at Sobibor, he was arrested in 2009 and extradited to Germany, with his U.S. citizenship stripped because he lied in his immigration application.

The proceedings will likely enter history as the last Nazi trial held in Germany. Demjanjuk's poor health has caused the proceedings, launched in 2009, to be delayed several times.

The presiding judge limited the proceedings to two 90-minute sessions per day, and Demjanjuk has attended them, wearing his dark sunglasses and a blue baseball cap, sitting in his wheelchair or lying in a hospital bed.

The final days of the trial heard joint plaintiffs whose relatives were murdered in Sobibor. Martin Haas, 74, lost his wife and two siblings.

"We have hoped that you would apologize," Haas told Demjanjuk in court, German daily Bild reports. "You're a racist villain, a coward, a willing butcher of the SS. Your baseball cap and your sun glasses can't shield you from the crime you have committed."

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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