John Demjanjuk, the Nazi death camp 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.
The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk was 91 years old when he died in Germany on Saturday after 35 years of legal battles on three continents.
Like other Holocaust criminals, Demjanjuk will not be buried in Germany for fear that his grave could become a neo-Nazi shrine -- but people in the Cleveland suburb where the former concentration camp guard lived for decades have similar concerns.
I have no doubt that a funeral in Seven Hills would turn into a demonstration of solidarity and support for Demjanjuk, who's the last person on Earth who deserves any sympathy, frankly, Efraim Zuroff, who leads the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, told the Associated Press.
For neo-Nazis, I think it's entirely possible that a Demjanjuk grave becomes a monument to the alleged evils of the Jews, Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the AP.
Although Demjanjuk was stripped of his U.S. citizenship twice -- once in the 1970s when his Nazi past surfaced, and again three decades later, when he was deported to Germany -- he can still be buried in Cleveland, where his family still resides.
In what was to be his final trial, Demjanjuk was sentenced to five years in prison by a Munich court in May for his role at the Sobibor extermination camp in German-occupied Poland in 1943. Despite the sentence, he was quickly released and sent to a German retirement home due to his age and failing health while he waited for an appeals trial to begin.
Demjanjuk's family and church -- the St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, Ohio -- have come to his defense.
Over the past 35-plus years our family has had no association with any part of the neo-Nazi groups, ever. We have condemned Nazi crimes, as my father is himself a victim of the Nazis regardless of whose version of the case you believe, Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said in an email to the AP.
Our parish and the Ukrainian community have always supported Mr. Demjanjuk and his claim of innocence of committing the crimes of which he was accused, his church said in a statement.
In the eyes of German law, Demjanjuk died an innocent man, because he died before his appeals trial was concluded.