Alleged Nazi guard charged over WWII killings

Image: John Demjanjuk
John DemjanjukC.h. Pete Copeland / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

German prosecutors formally charged John Demjanjuk on Monday with 27,900 counts of being an accessory to murder at a Nazi death camp during World War II.

The charges against the 89-year-old retired auto worker, who was deported from the United States in May, were filed at a Munich state court, prosecutors in the city said in a brief statement. There was no immediate word on when a trial might start.

Doctors cleared the way for formal charges earlier this month, determining that Demjanjuk (dem-YAHN'-yuk) was fit to stand trial so long as court sessions do not exceed two 90-minute blocs per day.

Prosecutors accuse Demjanjuk of serving as a guard at the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II.

Suspect disputes accusation
Demjanjuk says he was a Red Army soldier who spent World War II as a prisoner of war and never hurt anyone.

But Nazi-era documents obtained by U.S. justice authorities and shared with German prosecutors include a photo ID identifying Demjanjuk as a guard at the Sobibor death camp and information that he was trained at an SS facility for Nazi guards at Trawniki, which was also in occupied-Poland.

Charges of accessory to murder carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison in Germany.

Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, welcomed the filing of formal charges.

"This is obviously an important step forward," Zuroff said by telephone from Jerusalem. "We hope that the trial itself will be expedited so that justice will be achieved and he can be given the appropriate punishment."

"The effort to bring Demjanjuk to justice sends a very powerful message that the passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the perpetrator," Zuroff said.

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