Demjanjuk deemed fit enough for prison

John Demjanjuk, an 89-year-old deported from the US is fit to stay in jail as he awaits charges he helped herd thousands of Jews into the gas chambers, the German prison holding him said Wednesday.

Demjanjuk deemed fit enough for prison
Demjanjuk's ambulance entering the Stadelheim jail. Photo: DPA

“Our prison doctors have determined he is fit to remain in custody,” a spokeswoman for the Stadelheim jail in the southern city of Munich told AFP, a day after Demjanjuk, a former Nazi death camp guard, arrived in Germany.

Doctors must still determine whether Demjanjuk is fit to undergo the stress of an inevitably lengthy trial, but prosecutors said the medical checks on John Demjanjuk, born Ivan Demjanjuk in Ukraine, could take some time.

“I don’t expect a decision this week. It will be next week at the earliest,” Anton Winkler, spokesman for the Munich chief prosecutor’s office, told AFP.

Deputy prison director Jochen Menzel said Demjanjuk was in strikingly good condition.

“He is not typical for his age… he is in better shape than usual for an 89-year-old,” he told rolling news channel N24.

Demjanjuk’s lawyer Ulrich Busch plans to visit his client at Stadelheim at the weekend, his secretary told AFP. Busch says his client is too ill to face trial.

The elderly suspect’s family in the United States, where he was employed for several decades as an auto worker in Ohio, had argued he was too sick to travel but this week lost their long battle to prevent his deportation.

After arriving by specially chartered plane in Germany, Demjanjuk was taken to jail and then read the charges against him: that he assisted in the murder of at least 29,000 Jews in the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland in 1943.

Demjanjuk is suspect number three in the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s latest report on wanted Nazi war criminals behind two others thought to be dead, and his trial could be one of the last dealing with the war crimes of more than 60 years ago.

Prominent French Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld said Demjanjuk’s deportation to Germany shows that war criminals can be pursued until their deaths.

“The positive aspect is that Nazi crimes are being prosecuted until the very last breath of the last criminal,” he told AFP. “The Demjanjuk case upholds the idea of the rule of law, by showing that criminals should not go unpunished, whatever their age.”

It is not the first time that the barrel-chested, bespectacled Demjanjuk has found himself in such a situation. He spent five years on death row in Israel before being acquitted in 1993 when the Jewish state overturned the verdict.

In that case, Demjanjuk was suspected of being “Ivan the Terrible”, a particularly brutal death camp guard who specialised in hacking at naked prisoners with a sword, but Israel established it had the wrong man.

This time, Munich prosecutors want to try him for being an active assistant in the Nazi killing machine as a guard at Sobibor, walking children, women and men to their deaths. Demjanjuk’s lawyer says his client says he was never there.

“But even if he had been there, he should still be acquitted. He comes from Ukraine and would have been a so-called foreign guard”, a prisoner of war forced into service by the Nazis, Busch said.

“Given the history of this case and not a shred of evidence that he ever hurt one person let alone murdered anyone anywhere, this is inhuman even if the courts have said it is lawful,” his son John wrote Monday.

But courts in both Israel and the United States have previously stated he was a guard at Sobibor, accusations he had never previously challenged. Prosecutors also have an SS identity card with a photograph of a young man said to be Demjanjuk and written transcripts of witness testimony placing him at the camp.

Demjanjuk is stateless, having been stripped of his US citizenship for lying about his past. Munich prosecutors say it falls on the German city to try him because he had been registered as living there after World War II.

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German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.