A lawyer for John Demjanjuk, who is on trial over charges he aided in the murder of 27,900 Jews as a Nazi death camp guard, sought a halt to the proceedings after U.S. documents indicated evidence in the case may be forgeries.
A report prepared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about Demjanjuk indicates an identification card relied on by prosecutors may have been forged by the Soviet Union, Ulrich Busch told judges in Munich today. The 26-year-old documents were uncovered by the Associated Press.
“We always took the view that the ID card is a forgery,” Busch said in an interview.
Busch’s motion may interrupt the trial of the 91-year-old Demjanjuk, which has dragged on for more than 17 months due to health issues and disputes over evidence. Demjanjuk, a Ukraine native and former U.S. citizen, was extradited in May 2009 to Germany to stand trial in what is likely the country’s last case linked to the Holocaust.
The report found by the AP in the National Archives College Park, Maryland, said that FBI agents in Cleveland, where Demjanjuk lived, believed the ID card may have been forged by the Soviet Union after World War II. Prosecutors said at trial that the identification card was among evidence that proved Demjanjuk was a guard at the Sobibor death camp in 1943.
Prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz today told the court that the FBI report dated back to 1985 and was an “obsolete” review of the reasons that Soviet officials might not have allowed the examination of the identification card at the time. He said that he examined the FBI document in 2009.
“I didn’t give it any weight then and I don’t now,” Lutz said. The photo ID has been used as evidence at hearings and trials in the U.S. and Israel previously.
The court will review the motion and continued with closing arguments by lawyers for victims of the Sobibor camp.
Busch said he doesn’t believe the request will be successful, as the court has repeatedly denied his motions. The documents may be important for an appeal, he said.
The identification card and documents showing that Demjanjuk was brought to Sobibor were the central pieces of evidence in the case. The prosecution claims that they were enough to convict him because whoever aided in the camp’s operations is complicit in the murders.
The Nazis issued IDs to Russian prisoners of war who were trained at the Trawniki camp in what was then German-occupied Poland to become guards. The Germans captured Demjanjuk, who was fighting in the Russian Army, in 1942, according to the indictment.
He lived near Cleveland until stripped of his U.S. citizenship and extradited to Israel in 1986. Demjanjuk was tried there on charges he was “Ivan the Terrible,” the guard who tortured Jews while herding them into the Treblinka concentration camp gas chambers.
His death sentence and conviction in the case were overturned in 1993 by Israel’s Supreme Court, which said there was reasonable doubt that he served at Treblinka. Demjanjuk returned to the U.S., regaining his citizenship. In 2002, a U.S. court revoked it again over his alleged role at Sobibor.