Friday, October 16, 2009

John Demjanjuk, a Not-So-Funny Farce About the Last Nazi

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ESQUIRE 15 October 2009

Funny thing is, he was never a Nazi, nor Ivan the Terrible, nor even German. So why now is he standing trial in Munich as accessory to 27,900 Nazi murders? Is this one last blow struck for justice for the Holocaust? Or is it a farce?

By Scott Raab

[John Demjanjuk, who] was stripped of citizenship and shipped to Israel to face his accusers — brought to justice onstage in a concert hall converted into a courtroom for a yearlong trial broadcast on Israeli television and radio, meant to remind the younger Jews never to forget the evil done to them — and heard the survivors, in simultaneous translation, identify him across all the years and miles as the Ukrainian savage so bloodthirsty, so unforgettably depraved — with a whip or a sword or a drill, it was his pleasure to maim Jews only a few moments away from being gassed — that inmates called him Ivan Grozny: Ivan the Terrible.


Demjanjuk didn't hang, of course. After five years alone on death row in Israel's Ayalon prison — where Adolf Eichmann, too, had sat, the desk jockey who saw to it that the trains groaning with doomed Jews ran on time, and who was strung up in 1962; Eichmann and Demjanjuk are the only men Israel has ever tried for the Nazi genocidal crimes — Demjanjuk presented evidence on appeal that another man, one Ivan Marchenko, was Ivan the Terrible, and that Israel was about to hang the wrong Ukrainian.

Funny thing: The Israeli Supreme Court decided to let Ivan Demjanjuk walk.

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