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U.S. Court Rules John Demjanjuk Was Nazi Guard

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2002 decision by a Cleveland federal judge to strip 84-year-old retired autoworker John Demjanjuk of U.S. citizenship, saying the government proved he served as a guard in Nazi concentration camps.

``We find that the plaintiff, the United States of America, sustained its burden of proving through clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence that defendant, in fact, served as a guard at several Nazi training and concentration camps during World War II,'' appeals Judge Eric Clay wrote. ``We concur with the district court that he was not legally eligible to obtain citizenship under the Displaced Persons Act of 1948.''

His family vowed to challenge the ruling. The options include asking the full appeals court to reconsider its ruling or asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.

After the war, the Ukranian-born Demjanjuk was sent to a displaced persons camp, where he worked briefly as a driver for the U.S. Army. In 1950, he sought U.S. citizenship, claiming to have been a farmer in Sobibor, Poland, during the war. Demjanjuk came to the United States in 1952.

Demjanjuk later said he lied about his wartime activities to avoid being sent back to Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union. He said he had been captured during combat in the Crimea and sent to German prisoner of war camps in Ukraine and Poland. He said he was forced into the Russian National Army, formed to assist the Germans in repelling the Allies. He denied that he was a concentration camp guard.

Demjanjuk was originally accused in 1977 by the Justice Department of being “Ivan the Terrible,” a particularly sadistic Nazi guard who ran the gas chambers at Treblinka, but Demjanjuk insisted he was the victim of mistaken identity. After being deported, an Israeli court convicted Demjanjuk war crimes and crimes against humanity in April 1988 and sentenced him to death. After a five-year legal battle, Demjanjuk persuaded the Israeli Supreme Court to overturn his conviction based on new evidence that someone else was Ivan the Terrible.

He returned to his suburban Cleveland home in 1993 and avoided publicity. His U.S. citizenship, which had been revoked in 1981, was reinstated in 1998. But the Justice Department renewed its case, arguing that Demjanjuk was a guard at death camps other than Treblinka. The government no longer tried to link him to Ivan the Terrible; instead prosecutors said documents kept by the Germans and archived by the Soviet Union showed Demjanjuk was guard number 1393 and assigned to several Nazi death or forced labor camps after he was trained at Trawniki in Poland.

His citizenship was revoked again in February 2002.

Source: AP, (April 30, 2004)