The son of John Demjanjuk said his 89-year-old father was exhausted and in pain after immigration enforcement officers took him from his home to deport him to Germany.
John Demjanjuk Jr. also said the family thinks a court should consider whether the 89-year-old man would likely die during an overseas flight.
Germany issued an arrest warrant accusing the elder Demjanjuk of being a guard at a Nazi death camp during World War II.
He was removed carefully Tuesday from his Cleveland home and was well cared for while in custody, said Lou Martinez, spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Six immigration officers carried Demjanjuk in a wheelchair from his ranch home in suburban Seven Hills on Tuesday. His mouth hung open, his head slumped back, and cameras clicked away to record the rare public appearance.
Demjanjuk was released after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ordered a temporary stay of the deportation.
The retired autoworker won a late reprieve from an appeals court Tuesday, and with it, another chance to argue that his deportation would amount to torture, given his medical condition.
Demjanjuk seemed relieved and whispered, "OK," when told of the stay while still in custody, said Ed Nishnic, a former son-in-law and family spokesman.
Case moves forward
Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said the government will continue its legal battle, but there was no indication of any government filing in the case at the appeals court on Wednesday.
Demjanjuk lawyer John Broadley in Washington said no oral arguments were expected on Wednesday and he was waiting to learn what the court may seek or require.
An arrest warrant in Germany claims Demjanjuk was an accessory to some 29,000 deaths during World War II at the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Once in Germany, he could be formally charged in court.
"We continue to assume that there will be a quick conclusion to the proceedings, but have no current information on what the next step on the U.S. side now is," German Justice Ministry spokesman Ulrich Staudigl said Wednesday.
Demjanjuk denies involvement in any war crimes and has argued against deportation, saying he suffers from a bone marrow disorder, kidney disease, anemia, kidney stones, arthritis, gout and spinal deterioration.
A German lawyer for Demjanjuk, Ulrich Busch, argued Wednesday that he is unfit to face trial because he needs chemotherapy for a kidney tumor.
"It's either chemotherapy or a trial," Busch said.
Busch said he hopes for a "thorough" decision by the U.S. court.
"I hope everyone now pauses to think about whether we are really going to hold a trial of a seriously sick man that could last two years and which he cannot survive," Busch said.
If Demjanjuk were to be ruled unfit for trial after arriving in Germany, he could not return to the U.S. and would have to go to a German nursing home, Busch said.
Citing the need to act because of the possibility of Demjanjuk's imminent deportation, the U.S. appellate court issued the stay Tuesday without addressing the U.S. government's argument that the court had no jurisdiction to rule on Demjanjuk's appeal.
'Holding him accountable'
The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center said it was undeterred.
"We remain confident that John Demjanjuk will be deported and finally face the bar of justice for the unspeakable crimes he committed during World War II, when he was a guard at the Sobibor death camp," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, Wiesenthal Center founder.
Deborah Dwork, a professor of holocaust history at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., said the Demjanjuk case illustrates that there is no statute of limitations on the crime of genocide.
"The issue is holding him accountable, no matter what his age," she said.
Demjanjuk, a native Ukrainian, has denied being a Nazi guard and claims he was a prisoner of war of the Germans. He came to the United States after the war as a refugee.
Demjanjuk had been tried in Israel after accusations surfaced that he was the notorious Nazi guard "Ivan the Terrible" in Poland at the Treblinka death camp. He was found guilty in 1988 of war crimes and crimes against humanity, a conviction later overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court.
A U.S. judge revoked his citizenship in 2002 based on Justice Department evidence showing he concealed his service at Sobibor and other Nazi-run death and forced labor camps.
An immigration judge ruled in 2005 he could be deported to Germany, Poland or Ukraine.