John (Ivan) Demjanjuk has been found guilty and sentenced to five years imprisonment in Munich today. This is justice, and the result of decades of complex legal proceedings, so unlike the recent disposal of Bin Laden.
For those who don’t know, Demjanjuk is a 91 year old Ukrainian collaborator and mass murderer. During World War II as a Red Army soldier he was captured by the invading Nazis, then willingly changed sides to become a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Poland. Here, during a period of seventeen months around 200,000 people, mostly Jews, were exterminated. Demjanjuk has been found guilty of taking part in the deaths of some 27,900 of this total.
Like many involved in the Holocaust, Demjanjuk somehow evaded detection and managed to become a naturalised US citizen, but eventually his past caught up with him and he was extradited to Israel where he spent eight years in detention, accused of being the notorious ‘Ivan the Terrible,’ a sadistic guard at Treblinka, another death camp (more than 700,000 victims). Unfortunately, despite clear evidence to his having been involved in the Holocaust, he was found not to be the aforementioned guard, and had to be released.
However, Demjanjuk, now stripped of his US citizenship, was extradited to Germany in 2009 to stand trial again, this time prosecutors placing him in the correct death camp.
Although the sentence seems somewhat mild given the enormity of his crimes, the point is that justice has been done, despite a gap of nearly seventy years, and this despicable individual will be remembered for what he was – a willing mass murderer who showed no remorse for his crimes.
He may not have been Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, but he certainly fits the bill for that of Sobibor…