Ninety-one-year-old Ivan, the Terrible or John Demjanjuk was finally charged with thousands counts of being an accomplice to murder, in a Nazi-occupied Poland and sentenced to five years imprisonment, ending a trial that ran well over three decades.
A former U.S. auto worker, Demjanjuk was on trial in Germany facing charges he helped force 28,060 Jews into gas chambers in Sobibor Nazi camp in 1943.
There was no evidence in support of his crime but the prosecution based its argument on the presence of the native Ukrainian at a camp saying he was a participant in the killing of its inmates. This is the first time such an argument has been made in German courts.
Demjanjuk, however, showed no reaction and sat in a wheelchair in front of the judges as they announced their verdict. He declined the offer to make a final statement to the court.
Judge Ralph Alt announced that the defendant, who served as a guard at Sobibor from 27 March 1943 to mid September 1943, was charged with 28,060 counts of being an accomplice to murder, one for each person who died during the time he was accused of being a guard.
The verdict will not be final as the defense lawyer has pledged to appeal the German conviction and continue the legal proceedings in the United States, where he currently lives.
In 1980s, Demjanjuk had stood trial in Israel after he was accused of being the brutal guard “Ivan, the Terrible” at the Treblinka extermination camp.
He was convicted and sentenced to death but later was freed when an Israeli court overturned the ruling, saying that the evidence was the victim of mistaken identity.
Although, Demjanjuk maintains he was a victim of the Nazis — he was first wounded as a Soviet soldier fighting the German forces, and later was captured and held as a prisoner of war.
He then joined the German Vlasov Army, formed with the Soviet PoWs, that was fighting against the Soviets during the final months of the war.