German State Prosecutors Hans-Joachim Lutz announced yesterday that Mr John Demjanjuk, 89, is accused of being an ‘accessory’ of the death of 27,900 Jews. Many of us may not understand what the legal notion of ‘accessory’ stands for. An ‘accessory’ is a person who assists in the commission of a crime, but who does not actually participate in the commission of the crime as a joint principal. Bearing that in mind. I wonder what Demjanjuk’s court case is there to serve? Clearly geriatric Demjanjuk is not a danger to society. He is neither blamed for being a murderer nor accused of being a mass murderer. Being an alleged ‘accessory’ he is not exactly the story of the Shoa either. If the Holocaust is an account of a racially driven industrial homicidal crime, a Ukrainian POW serving as a German guard while being a prisoner is not exactly a story of a principal executioner. If this court case is aimed at perpetuating the message of the holocaust, all it really does is spread the opposite message. It only proves once again that the Holocaust ideology is revengeful and merciless. If the Germans are really after a last Holocaust spectacular trial can’t they pick something slightly more juicy than an ‘alleged accessory’?
In 1986, John Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel where he was put on trial. According to the Israeli prosecutors, Demjanjuk was brought to a German POW camp in Chelmno in July 1942. He then volunteered to collaborate with the Germans and was sent to the camp at Trawniki, where he was trained to guard prisoners and was given a firearm, a uniform, and an ID card with his photograph. The principal allegation was that Demjanjuk was in fact “Ivan the Terrible” the notorious cold blooded murderer of Treblinka. On April 18, 1988, the Israeli court found Demjanjuk guilty of all charges. One week later, it sentenced him to death by hanging. In 1993, five Israeli Supreme Court judges overturned the guilty verdict on appeal. They realised that the case against Demjanjuk was based on ‘mistaken identification’. “We restrained ourselves” the Israeli judges wrote, “from convicting the appellant of the horrors of Treblinka. Ivan Demjanjuk has been acquitted by us, because of doubt, of the terrible charges attributed to Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka.”
By the time the Israeli supreme court decided to release Demjanjuk, the Israeli Attorney General was fully aware of John Demjanjuk being a guard in Sobibor. And yet he decided not to pursue accessory charges against him. Amongst other arguments in favour of Demjanjuk’s release, Israeli Attorney General claimed that “new charges would be unreasonable given the seriousness of those of which he had been acquitted.” He also argued that “conviction on the new charges (being a German guard) would be unlikely.” The Israeli Attorney General grasped that charging Demjanjuk for being an accessory would be counter effective.
Seemingly, the German legal system lacks that necessary ‘Jewish’ wisdom performed by Israeli supreme judges and Attorney General. As it seems, the German court found a very embarrassing method to deal with the German past. They are now charging a dying Ukrainian/American for attempting to survive a Nazi POW camp by collaborating. That is, a one-time German prisoner became an ‘accessory’ of the German killing machine.
If the Germans are insisting to search for Nazi collaborators and brutal ‘accessories,’ survivor Israel Shahak can advise them where to find them. “Every Jewish child was taught (in the Ghettos),” says Shahak, that “if you enter a square from which there are three exits, one guarded by a German SS man, one by a Ukrainian and one by a Jewish policeman, then you should first try to pass the German, and then maybe the Ukrainian, but never the Jew.”1 Apparently, this story is reflected in many survivors’ personal and academic accounts. The Jewish capos and Judenrat were the most brutal of them all.
I think that the Germans better move on and let go of their past. Composing great symphonies and writing philosophy is by far a superior contribution to humanity than Holocaust trials. Guilt is a futile and destructive mode of being. However, if the Germans still feel at fault, they better transform their guilt into responsibility. They better remember that the Palestinians are de facto the last victims of Hitler. Their ordeal is far from being over. If the Germans feel culpable about their past they should never send German warships to Israel. If Germans are concerned with their history they better transform it into meaning. Rather than charging an 89-year old for being an alleged ‘accessory’ they better bring to justice some of the perpetrators of genocidal crimes that are taking place in front of our eyes.
Rather than pushing old Demjanjuk into court in a wheelchair, the German ministry of Justice better pursue Tony Blair, George Bush, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, and Shimon Peres. They are all free and healthy enough to stand a trial. Unlike alleged accessory Demjanjuk they are all perpetrators of colossal crimes against humanity.