Trial of accused death camp guard begins

Nov. 30, 2009 at 10:01 AM
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MUNICH, Germany, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The trial of retired U.S. autoworker John Demjanjuk, accused of helping force 27,900 Jews to their deaths in the Holocaust, began in Munich, Germany, Monday.

Prosecutors charge that Demjanjuk, 89, worked as a guard at the Sobibor extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943. Despite having no witnesses to testify to Demjanjuk's presence at the camp or specific crimes he is accused of committing there, prosecutors said they are confident they can convict Demjanjuk of the accessory counts based on an SS identity card and the orders sending him to Sobibor from a Trawniki, Poland, training camp for Nazi guards, The New York Times reported Monday.

"When a transport of Jews arrived, routine work was suspended and all camp personnel took part in the routine process of extermination," the indictment reads. "If people refused to come out, the Trawnikis entered the cars and forced those who hesitated with violence out of the train and onto the ramp."

The trial marks the second time Demjanjuk has been prosecuted. He once was sentenced to death in Israel in 1988, but his conviction was overturned as a case of mistaken identity.

Demjanjuk's family members and attorneys said the autoworker suffers from numerous ailments and is too ill to stand trial. However, doctors determined Demjanjuk should be OK if questions were restricted to two 90-minute sessions per day.

About a quarter-million Jews were killed at Sobibor before the camp was closed after a prisoner uprising in 1943.

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