In memory of John Demjanjuk

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March 21, 2012, 10:17 a.m. | Op-ed — by Andriy J. Semotiuk

Andriy J. Semotiuk

“I am again and repeatedly an innocent victim of the Germans ... I find it an unbearable arrogance of Germany, that Germany is misusing me to turn the attention away from the war crimes committed by Germans, to make them forgotten and against the truth to claim that the true criminals of the Nazi crimes were me, the Ukrainians and the European neighbours of Nazi Germany.”

--John Demjanjuk during his trial in Munich, Germany during which he was convicted of being an accessory to the Nazi murders of 27,900 Jews while serving as a guard in the World War II death camp in Sobibor, Poland, after the former Soviet Red Army soldier was taken prisoner of war by the Germans in 1942. About 25 years ago I was asked to attend a fundraising dinner for a man named John Demjanjuk. He was being deported from the United States to face trial in Israel accused of being Ivan the Terrible. I was reluctant to attend since the last thing I wanted was to support the defense of someone who might have been a Nazi war criminal.

However, as an immigration lawyer, I was intrigued by what appeared to me to be the use of criminal law masquerading as immigration law in his case. From that night on, I followed the proceedings in the many trials of John Demjanjuk. While I was not immersed in the case, over the years I became increasingly alarmed by the legal deficiencies that were evident in the prosecution of his case in the United States, then in Israel and finally in Munich. Over time I began writing articles pointing out these legal shortcomings. While his recent death brought an end to his legal journey, I believe the legal legacy of his case will trouble us for many years to come.

Demjanjuk’s legal odyssey began while he was living in Cleveland in the 1970s. In 1975 Michael Hanusiak, editor of the New York-based Ukrainian Daily News, compiled a list of Ukrainians suspected of collaborating with Germans and presented it to what was then the U .S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

John Demjanjuk was on that list. The Ukrainian Daily News was nothing more than a pro-Soviet mouthpiece. The newspaper served as a convenient vehicle for the Soviet KGB to set off Jews against Ukrainians, particularly in the United States since at that time there was a fair degree of cooperation between the two groups who worked with Russian dissidents like Andrei Sakharov to secure the release of various Soviet dissidents and the emigration of Soviet Jewry to Israel in an era of detente.

Then, in 1977, Demjanjuk was accused of being not just a Nazi collaborator, but of being Ivan the Terrible, a gas chamber operator in the Treblinka death camp in Poland. From 1977 to 1993, Demjanjuk faced a long series of court hearings through the American and then Israeli court systems all the way to the Supreme Court of Israel. In the course of those hearings he was found guilty and sentenced to death. In short, for 15 years while he sat in U.S. and Israeli jails, those who pursued and prosecuted Demjanjuk were positive that he was not in Sobibor as they claimed later in Munich, but rather in Treblinka.

In 1993, after the defense in the Israeli proceedings amassed irrefutable evidence of Demjanjuk’s innocence, the Israeli Supreme Court lifted the sentence, dismissed the charges (that incidentally included the charge that he was a guard in Sobibor) and allowed him to return to the United States. In the meantime, a U.S. Federal Appeals Court had opened up his case after determining that U.S. prosecutors were guilty of prosecutorial misconduct in failing to earlier reveal to the defense a raft of files with exculpatory evidence they had. Demjanjuk’s U.S. citizenship was reinstated and he was allowed to go free once again.

As it turned out John Demjanjuk was definitely not Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka. But those who had pursued Demjanjuk for 15 years, swearing for certain he was in Treblinka and not anywhere else, then declared – no, he was not in Treblinka, but rather he was in Sobibor. The process started all over again in 2002 and by 2009 Demjanjuk was once again on an airplane headed out of the country, this time to Germany.

This time, however, the charges seemed even stranger. Demjanjuk was charged not with war crimes or crimes against humanity, nor even of murder, but of being an accessory to murder. Not murder in Germany, but in Sobibor, that is to say in Poland. Not as a high-level official, but as a low-ranking guard. Not as a German, but as a Ukrainian. Not of one, or a few victims - but of 27,900 victims.

Why did Germany decide to target Demjanjuk in this way? And why did it remain silent for 30 years while the Demjanjuk case wound its way through the U.S. and Israeli courts?

If Germany was so concerned about its Nazi past there was no shortage of Nazis to prosecute – no shortage of party members, Nazi government officials, army officers, camp commandants. Why, for example, didn’t Germany prosecute Reinhard Gehlen, the former Nazi chief of eastern front intelligence and the hundreds of other ex-Nazis he gathered in the West German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) that he headed after the war?

The answer was evident. Germany did not have the stomach to fully prosecute its own transgressors. In fact, its pursuit and conviction of its own Nazi transgressors had not been very impressive.

Though German courts investigated over 100,000 cases, only some 6,500 accused were convicted and of these, most received rather light sentences. Furthermore, Germany passed legislation that effectively provided an amnesty from prosecution for German Nazis, including SS concentration camp commanders and their German subordinates. But the amnesty did not extend to Untermenschen (sub-humans) like Demjanjuk.

It appeared that the German leadership was tired of prosecuting their own people and was now looking for scapegoats like John Demjanjuk to slough off German guilt for what happened in the concentration camps of World War II.

The prosecution in Munich relied on three key pieces of evidence and a ‘novel’ legal proposition to obtain a conviction. It submitted evidence of a Trawniki ID card, a statement of a fellow Sobibor camp guard named Ignat Danilchenko who claimed that Demjanjuk was with him at the camp and Nazi transfer lists that included Demjanjuk’s name as one of the soldiers assigned to the camp. As for the theory of guilt in the prosecution’s case, they argued that the mere presence of a guard in this death factory was tantamount to assisting with the murders that took place there.

Trawniki card

Was the Trawniki card real or was it a Soviet fabrication? Much evidence was led over the years one way or the other. It must be remembered that the defense was not under the burden of proving the Trawniki card to be forged. All the defense had to do was raise a reasonable doubt about it. Three arguments stood out in my mind regarding the card.

Perhaps the most disturbing was the question of where the card originated and the chain of possession that related to the card. That the signatures of the German officials on the card were real did not lead to the conclusion that the card itself was real. As Count Nikolai Tolstoy pointed out to Yoram Sheftel, the Israeli attorney who defended Demjanjuk in Israel, there was an entire Soviet KGB division known as Division 14 that dealt solely with the forgery of documents. Sheftel indicated that the components of such cards, including pre-signed Nazi signatures, were seized by Russian troops at the end of the war and were therefore available to the Soviets to make up false papers. The dubious road from post-war Poland to Soviet Russia to the U.S., to Israel and then to Munich in the hands of the persons involved did not inspire great confidence in its authenticity. The Soviets had a motive to discredit Demjanjuk as a Ukrainian anti-communist in Cleveland during the détente era and the opportunity to do so.

Some world experts expressed reservations about the authenticity of the card. Basing himself on all the known signatures of Demjanjuk in the years 1947 to 1986, for example, Julius Grant, who Sheftel claimed was the world’s foremost forensic expert and the man who revealed the forgeries of the “Mussolini diaries” and the “Hitler diaries,” testified in Israel that the Demjanjuk signature on the card differed from all the others in the way the Ds and Ms were formed and in the fact that in all other signatures the writing was continuous but on the card it was not.

Further, Grant pointed out that there were two holes in the right side of the picture on the card whilst on the paper under the holes in the photograph there were no holes. Judging by the purple ink found inside the holes which was similar to ink used by the KGB and the nature of the spacing of the holes, Grant concluded it was more logical to assume that the photograph was unstapled from some other Soviet document and attached to the card in the Soviet Union, than that it was originally attached in Trawniki in 1942.

Israeli officials refused to allow Grant to detach the photo from the card to make a conclusive finding, but he nonetheless concluded his evidence by saying “The Trawniki document cannot be an authentic document belonging to the defendant Demjanjuk.” The same conclusion was reached by many researchers around the world who have cast doubt on the card, particularly when it was compared to similar cards from the time period.

Michael Shaked, the prosecutor in the Israeli case, indicated that on Jan. 23, 1987, that the original Trawniki card was provided for examination to the German police force’s main criminal-identification laboratory in Weisbaden, known for its initials as BKA.

The laboratory analysts indicated that even after a cursory examination it was evident that the document was a forgery. They pointed out that the face in the photograph which the prosecution in Israel had identified as Demjanjuk’s had been posted on to the uniform using photo-montage techniques; the picture was not originally attached to the card, but had been transferred from another document; there was no match between the seal on the Trawniki picture and that on the document itself. Further German analysis was of the card was stopped by the Israelis since it was not helping their case.

These were some to the main shortcomings related to the Trawniki card that raised serious doubts about its bona fides. Yet the Munich court help there was no reasonable doubt about it.

Danilchenko statement

Given that Demjanjuk was accused of being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 victims, it would seem that such a guard would have been well known and readily identifiable by survivors of Sobibor whose fate would have been in his hands. Yet according to Sheftel, of the dozen Jewish survivors of Sobibor throughout the world who were questioned from 1976 onward, by both the American investigators and the Israeli authorities, none identified Demjanjuk’s picture as that of a guard from Sobibor. This was significant since it contradicted the evidence of Ignat Danilchenko who claimed he served with Demjanjuk in Sobibor and identified Demjanjuk’s picture when Danilchenko was interrogated in 1979 by the Soviet KGB. Some time after his interrogation, Danilchenko said he was tortured by the KGB which tended to discredited his assertions. He passed away without ever being cross-examined by the defense on the identification or his claims.

Transfer lists

There was evidence led by the prosecution that Demjanjuk’s name appeared on Nazi transfer lists assigning him to Sobibor.
There was some confusion about this since Demjanjuk’s name also appeared on another transfer list dealing with Lublin apparently punished for unlawfully leaving a camp there. Was he at both camps?

The court’s conclusion that Demjanjuk was at Sobibor

All the forgoing evidence, according to the court, established that Demjanjuk was indeed present in Sobibor. But this alone was not enough to convict Demjanjuk of the crime as alleged. The prosecution needed to prove complicity in murder.

A fundamental principle of Western jurisprudence is individual responsibility for one’s actions. In criminal law, this requires that the charges against the accused, and the accused’s responsibility for the crime, must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Since Demjanjuk could not be accused of any specific criminal act, he had to be found guilty not of murder, but of being an accessory to murder. And since he was not a German and therefore effectively amnestied by German law, and never a Nazi, he was tried as a non-German because he allegedly worked for the Nazis. Since there was no direct evidence of guilt, the case had to be proven on circumstantial evidence.

To prove a circumstantial case the evidence presented had to lead to a reasonable conclusion that Demjanjuk was guilty - and no other reasonable conclusion. That is the standard of proof required in such circumstantial cases under criminal law. But others who were in Sobibor, German guards, such as Erich Lachmann, Heinz-Hans Schutt, Heinrich Unverhau, Robert Juhres, Ernst Zirke, or Erwin Lambert were charged but found not guilty according to the Holocaust Archive and Research Team who list these names on their website. If they were there, did not try to escape due to risk of death, and were not part of the “killing machine” then that could also have been true for Demjanjuk. If anything, the evidence in the Demjanjuk case supported a reasonable inference that he was innocent, even assuming he was in the camp, precisely because he was NOT German and therefore likely did not want to take part in the work of the camp.

To many Ukrainians, the Demjanjuk case demonstrated that the world did not understand that Ukraine was a victim of both the Soviets and the Nazis during World War II, and of the Holodomor before the war.

Their exasperation over its many twists and turns grew over time.

For many Jews, Demjanjuk’s case represented their last opportunity to once again broadly publicize the evils of Nazi Germany and its role in the Holocaust. They made the most that they could of it.

In the end, however, this case was not really about the trial of Ivan Demjanjuk.

It was about the trial of modern-day Germany, of Israel before that, and by extension, since the case started there, of the United States. In their desire to condemn the transgressions of Germany’s past, the prosecutors and judges in the Demjanjuk case, from its beginnings in the United States to Munich, failed to follow elementary rules of fairness, due process and the rule of law.

They employed immigration instead of criminal rules to lower the standard of proof for the prosecution, they knowingly withheld key evidence from the defense and were found by a U.S. appeals court to have committed prosecutorial misconduct.

They deported instead of extradited Demjanjuk to Germany, they invented new theories of guilt unknown to the law and detached from personal responsibility and they allowed the case to be politicized to become a show trial over and over again. The irony of the Demjanjuk case lies in the fact that, despite all these efforts to convict him, according to German law, no conviction stands until all appeal rights have been exhausted.

In other words, despite what the international media may say, according to German law, and Israeli and American law for that matter, Demjanjuk was never found guilty of any crime. His long nightmare is finally over. At long last he can now rest in peace.

Andriy J. Semotiuk is an attorney practicing in the area of international law focusing on immigration. He is a member of the bars of New York and California in the United States and Ontario and British Columbia in Canada. A former United Nations correspondent who was stationed in New York, Semotiuk now practices law and resides in Toronto.
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Eckard von Goeden March 21, 2012, 3:01 p.m.    

Too many useless words on a useless topic.

Demjanjuk was found guilty.

And that is a fact.,CmC=3902504.html

and many more German publications.

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Jaroslaw Sawka March 21, 2012, 4:02 p.m.    

have any more tall tales you want to share with us?heh,heh,heh:D

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Jaroslaw Sawka March 21, 2012, 4:01 p.m.    

&quot;possibly&quot; being there? &quot;possibly&quot; pushing a million Jews into &quot;gas chamber&quot; in Treblinka; one quarter THAT amount in Sobibor; one quarter THAT amount in Trieste; one quarter THAT amount in Cleveland???

The Hate mongering Holocaust industry never stops its propaganda with surrogate clones like you.heh,heh,heh:D

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Jaroslaw Sawka March 22, 2012, 4:59 a.m.

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Eckard von Goeden March 22, 2012, 8:20 a.m.    


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Jaroslaw Sawka March 22, 2012, 4:57 a.m.

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Jaroslaw Sawka March 21, 2012, 4:19 p.m.    

March 19, 2012 Dr. Ulrich Busch, Attorney for late John Demjanjuk

What the media reports to the German and international public about the death of my client John Demjanjuk contradicts the objective truth and is in all respects misleading, tarnishing the memory of my client.

He is almost exclusively depicted as a convicted war and Nazi criminal, who has driven 28,000 Jews into the gas chambers of Sobibor.

It is a fact, however, that my client has died unconvicted and a free man. The verdict of the District Court in Munich is void and this trial has failed. The Supreme Court can no longer clarify the question of guilt. The trial will be dismissed, probably with specific lifting of the verdict of the Munich District Court.

It is a fact, that the media knows, who the true murderers of Sobibor are, namely the Germans.

It is not understandable why the media keeps silent about them and their non conviction.

Another fact is that there is no reference to the gruesome killing of 3.5 million Eastern European Prisoners of War by Nazi Germany.

Dr. Ulrich Busch

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Mykhayl March 21, 2012, 4:26 p.m.    

QUOTE: &quot;...judges in the Demjanjuk case, from its beginnings in the United States to Munich, failed to follow elementary rules of fairness, due process and the rule of law...&quot; QUIT QUOTE

Is Mr. Drmjanjuk about to become more trouble dead than alive?

QUOTE: &quot;... despite what the international media may say, according to German law, and Israeli and American law for that matter, Demjanjuk was never found guilty of any crime. His long nightmare is finally over. At long last he can now rest in peace ...&quot; QUIT QUOTE

Where will he be laid to rest?

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Eckard von Goeden March 21, 2012, 5:55 p.m.    

rest in peace ?

burn in hell you mean ...

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Jaroslaw Sawka March 21, 2012, 6:43 p.m.    

does THAT stand for &quot;low jew&quot;???

There goes Van the Man, yaaaawn also known as heh,heh,heh:D again!

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Mykhayl March 22, 2012, 9:33 a.m.    

Finally in peace let us pray unto the LORD.

May He Who Is, having the power over all the living and dead, the Anointed One, our LORD God, lauded by the prayers of His own pristine virginal mother, and His friends the most holy, glorious and praised apostles, along with our fathers and mothers of Godly demeanor and all the saints in Heaven establish in the mansions of the incorruptible among them this soul of this long-suffering falsely accused servant Ivan, now taken from us to finally in order to give him rest in Abraham's bosom, now number him among the just while having mercy upon us all, for He who is our LORD is the laudable lover, mentor and muse for all mankind... grant perpetual rest in a blessed dormition for the soul of Your servant, our vindicated compatriot and brother Ivan, a long-suffering scapegoat of Nazi revisionists, Russian manipulation and the greed of the Holocaust industry...

Eternal memory of repose with the LORD...

veechnuyu pamyat...

viichnaya pamyat.

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Eckard von Goeden March 22, 2012, 11:26 a.m.    

Go and take your medication as the nurse told you !

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Eckard von Goeden March 21, 2012, 7:34 p.m.    

so hoooooot around here

somehow burning like hell....

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Jaroslaw Sawka March 21, 2012, 8:28 p.m.    

Dzu lo=low jew which this guy really is

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Jaroslaw Sawka March 21, 2012, 8:26 p.m.    

Hysteria!!!Demjanjuk's body is going to be a MAGNET Shrine for Nazis!

The way that the manipulating Jewish elite is behaving in trying to FAN hysteria and paranoia about Demjanjuk's dead would think he's going to Resurrect on Easter and lead the Fourth Reich to conquer the world and create yet another HOLOCAUST (maybe with Iranians instead of Germans; because Iranians rhyme with Ukrainians(did you ever notice that rhyme? its not coincidence, its written in Scripture somewhere). In THAT case they better REALLY think where he should be buried! I suggest Israel- because that way they can keep an eye on him day and night and drive a stake through his vampire heart when he makes a move!

I wouldn't throw him into the Sea with Eichmann and Osama Bin Laden because then they might resurrect and join forces as a Giant Tidal Wave and take out a country with a large Coastline and instead of driving Jews &quot;into the Sea&quot; cover them &quot;with the Sea&quot;!

Probably the best practical and humane solution may be to let the family bury him in Cleveland and STOP this nonsense!!! Sainthood or not!

Read more:

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Jaroslaw Sawka March 21, 2012, 8:45 p.m.    

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 11:30 AM PDT

Nazi death camp guard's body to be returned to US

Straits Times Wed, 21 Mar 2012 09:01 AM PDT

BERLIN (AFP) - The body of former Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk, convicted of more than 27,000 counts of accessory to murder, will be returned to the United States (US) where his family lives, a German undertaker said on Wednesday.

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Jaroslaw Sawka March 21, 2012, 8:48 p.m.    

Shrines, temples, cathedrals, Holy Places etc which will sprout up ALL over the world!!!

Did the J elite finally come to their senses to let him be buried or were they SHAMED into it?

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Eckard von Goeden March 21, 2012, 10:23 p.m.    

yep, it is National Cleaning Day here.

All garbage must disappear.

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Jaroslaw Sawka March 22, 2012, 1:12 a.m.    

They forgot to describe him as an enshrined &quot;MAGNET&quot;

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 3:46 PM PDT

Nazi Guard Demjanjuk To Be Buried In Cleveland

International Business Times Wed, 21 Mar 2012 14:12 PM PDT

John Demjanjuk, the former Nazi guard convicted for his involvement with the deaths of 28,000 people, will be buried in Cleveland, Ohio, the city where he settled after fleeing Germany after World War II.

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Jaroslaw Sawka March 22, 2012, 4:54 a.m.    

Berlin's Holocaust Memorial At Risk of Crumbling


German authorities have started reinforcing hundreds of concrete blocks at Berlin's Holocaust memorial with steel collars after a study revealed they were at risk of crumbling. The memorial to Jews killed in World War Two has become one of Berlin's most popular tourist attractions, drawing coach loads of visitors each day to wander through the maze of gravestone-like blocks a short walk from the Brandenburg Gate. A survey by engineers found about one in seven of the 2,711 blocks is in danger of breaking up due to cracks in the concrete.

There is more to this than just CRACKS in the concrete! A lot MORE is starting to crumble!

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Eckard von Goeden March 22, 2012, 11:24 a.m.    

yes, your brain cells or what is left of them

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Eckard von Goeden March 22, 2012, 11:23 a.m.    

Eleven eyewitnesses plus one SS officer testified that JD was Ivan the Terrible. On US visa form in 1951 JD wrote incorrectly his mother's maiden name as Marchenko. Later he retracted name Marchenko saying that he picked the Russian name Marchenko at random because he could not remember his mother's maiden name back then.

All involved in JD case agreed that Ivan Marchenko was Ivan the Terrible.

Thus JD did not lie when writing Marchenko and gave the world the clue testimony that he himself was Ivan Marchenko i.e.Ivan the terrible. Ivan Marchenko would use lead pipe and drill to beat and torture victims and esp. use sword to cut live flesh parts from many male and female Jewish victims on their way running to the gas chanmbers.

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Jaroslaw Sawka March 24, 2012, 7:18 p.m.

Munich state court spokeswoman Margarete Noetzel said this week that under German law, Demjanjuk is &quot;still technically presumed innocent,&quot; because he died before his final appeal could be heard, and &quot;a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.&quot;

Asked by Haaretz if that means there is no record of Demjanjuk's conviction, Noetzel replied, &quot;Yes, it means Mr. Demjanjuk has no criminal record.&quot;

Since Demjanjuk's conviction cannot be validated legally, due to his death, the conviction remains &quot;merely as an historic fact,&quot; Noetzel said.

Last May, Demjanjuk was convicted in Germany of 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland and sentenced to five years in prison. He appealed to a higher court and was allowed to wait for the court's verdict on his appeal in a nursing home in south Germany. That is where he died this week.

Demjanjuk's German lawyer, Dr. Ulrich Busch, told Haaretz that the Munich court published the statement regarding his client's presumed innocence at his demand.

&quot;After my client's death, a false statement was distributed to the effect that Mr. Demjanjuk died as a convicted war criminal,&quot; Busch told Haaretz in an exchange of e-mails. &quot;The German and international media accepted this version and sullied my client, portraying him as one who led 28,000 people to the gas chambers.&quot;

Busch said he demanded the legal authorities in Germany issue a clarification saying his client &quot;died innocent and without conviction,&quot; and that his conviction by a lower court &quot;is invalid.

&quot;The statement issued now clears my client's name and restores his dignity,&quot; he said.

&quot;It's a great consolation to his family, which is grieving over the loss of a husband and father, who died alone in far away Germany,&quot; Busch added.

He described Ukraine-born Demjanjuk's conviction as a &quot;legal scandal.&quot;

&quot;I was and still am convinced the Supreme Court would have granted his appeal and acquitted him this year, had he not died before the procedure ended,&quot; he said.

Read more:

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