John Demjanjuk
Accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk sits in a wheelchair as he arrives in a courtroom in Munich, June, 15, 2010. Photo by AP
Text size

John Demjanjuk's attorney told a Munich court Tuesday he has obtained new evidence that throws into question a key witness' statement that the defendant killed Jews at the Nazi's Sobibor death camp.

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, a former Ohio autoworker, is standing trial on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder for allegedly having been a guard at Sobibor. He denies the charges.

Earlier in the trial, the court read aloud summaries of statements by Sobibor guard Ignat Danilchenko, who allegedly told Soviet officials that he remembered Demjanjuk from the death camp.

In one summary, Danilchenko said he served with Demjanjuk at Sobibor and that Demjanjuk like all guards in the camp, participated in the mass killing of Jews.

The statements from Danilchenko, who is now dead, were made in 1949 and 1979.

The defense has argued that they could have been made under torture and should not be admitted as evidence.

On Tuesday, attorney Ulrich Busch said he had obtained another statement that Danilchenko had given to the Soviets in 1985.

In that document, Danilchenko refers to several other guards but never Demjanjuk. He says that none of the Ukrainian guards were able to go in to the areas where Jews were stripped of their clothes and remaining possessions, and then gassed.

The watchmen had no access to the second or third zones, Danilchenko said, according to the transcript. Exclusively Germans carried out the guard duty.

Prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz noted that other witnesses had testified that Ukrainian guards did participate in the killing process. None, however, identified Demjanjuk.

Busch, who said he received the 1985 testimony from an attorney representing the families of Sobibor victims in the case, told the court another statement from Danilchenko from 1983-4 is understood to exist, and asked that it be traced.

Demjanjuk, 90, had his U.S. citizenship revoked in 1981 after the U.S. Justice Department alleged he hid his past as the notorious Treblinka death camp guard
Ivan the Terrible.

He was extradited to Israel, where he was found guilty and sentenced to death in 1988. But Israel's supreme court overturned that conviction five years later as a case of mistaken identity.

In a 1993, a federal U.S. appeals panel concluded that the Department of Justice's Office of Special Investigations had failed to disclose exculpatory information - including statements of Ukrainian guards at Treblinka who clearly identified another man as Ivan the Terrible - in a timely fashion to the defense due to a win at any cost attitude.

This case has been fraught with government cover-up, prosecutorial misconduct and fraud over the years and this is but another chapter of the same, Demjanjuk Jr. said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

If the Germans are interested in justice, they will simply ask the Russians and the U.S. to turn over all the evidence including Soviet Investigative file 1627 and the missing Danilchenko report.