John Demjanjuk, the former Ford autoworker and convicted Nazi who was once accused of being Ivan the Terrible, died Saturday in the Bavarian town of Bad Feilnbach at the age of 91. Demjanjuk, who was a guard at the Sobibor Nazi death camp in Poland during World War II, was sentenced to five years in jail in 2011.
The war criminal was released due to an appeal, and he passed away in a nursing home. Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., told the Associated Press that his father, who suffered from terminal bone marrow disease, chronic kidney disease and other illnesses, died of natural causes.
According to AP, Demjanjuk spent decades trying to fight the allegations that he was a fomer Nazi. The first accusationsthat he was a Nazi guard were made mare than 30 years ago.
Involvement in World War II
Demjanjuk said he was drafted into the Soviet army in 1940 where he was eventually captured. The Ukraine native said that he spent the rest of World War II in a prisoner-of-war camp, Bloomberg News reported.
On his U.S. visa application, Demjanjuk claimed to be a farmer in Poland during WWII, and he later claimed that he lied due to fear of being deported to the Soviet Union.
Stripped of U.S. Citizenship
In 1952, Demjanjuk allegedly lied about his Nazi involvement in order to come to the United States, Bloomberg reported. The war criminal moved his family to Ohio and became a U.S. citizen in 1958. Around that time, he changed his name from Iwan to John. The former Ford autoworker lost his U.S. citizenship in 1981, when he was first accused of being a Nazi guard, and then again in 2002, when charged again with the same crime. He was deported to Germany in 2005 after it was confirmed he was a guard at mutliple Nazi death camps.
Accessory to Murder
When Demjanjuk was first stripped of his citizenship in 1981 he was extradited to Israel to face charges that he was Ivan the Terrible, an infamous Holocaust torturer. He was sentenced to death by hanging in 1988 in Israel after being convicted of crimes against humanity. In 1993, Demjanjuk was able to fight the charges successfully, but he was again denied citizenship in the U.S. in 2002 due to his role as a Nazi guard.
On March 17, 2011, Demjanjuk was in court in Munich facing charges of being an accessory to murder. The trial lasted 18 months, and in May 2011, Demjanjuk was charged with 28,060 counts of accessory to murder.
New German Legal Precedent
Demjanjuk's case was a unique one when it was brought to trial. His case marked the first time that someone was convicted with no evidence of a specific killing in Germany. Demjanjuk was charged solely for serving as a camp guard, the AP reported.
John Demjanjuk Jr. believed that his father was a victim in the trial. He loves life, family and humanity, Demjanjuk Jr. told the AP. History will show Germany used him as a scapegoat to blame helpless Ukrainian POWs for the deeds of Nazi Germans.