Today, 89 year old John Demjanjuk was deported from the United States and put on a plane for Germany. This deportation has been going on since 1977, when the retired auto worker was accused of being a guard in a Nazi death camp.
According to the AP article:
The deportation came four days after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider Demjanjuk’s request to block deportation and about 3 1/2 years after he was last ordered deported.
The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk (pronounced dem-YAHN’-yuk) is wanted on a Munich arrest warrant that accuses him of 29,000 counts of accessory to murder as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. The legal case spans three decades.
Damjanjuk denies the charges and has maintained all along that he was held as a Soviet prisoner of war by the Germans.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, a founder of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said Demjanjuk deserves to be punished and that this will probably be the last trial of someone accused of Nazi war crimes.
“His work at the Sobibor death camp was to push men, women and children into the gas chamber,” Hier said in a statement. “He had no mercy, no pity and no remorse for the families whose lives he was destroying.”
The center was established to locate and help bring to justice Nazi war criminals.
The deportation capped a day in which Demjanjuk said goodbye to his family and was visited by two priests at his home in Seven Hills, a Cleveland suburb.
He then slipped quietly into an ambulance parked in his driveway, his family members standing at the edge of the garage and holding up a floral-patterned bed sheet to block the view of reporters and photographers across the street.
Apparently Damjanjek’s citizenship was revoked. He is an old man. Should he be punished? Was he ‘just following orders?’ How long should a person’s crimes against humanity follow them? Why did the rabbi say this man is probably the final Nazi who will be prosecuted?
A great deal has been said on this blog about Nazis. What do we do when we find a real Nazi? A part of me thinks this is an old, old man who lived out his life in another time away from the insanity of WWII Germany. Another part of me thinks that the last villain should be hunted down and punished. I think of Alex’s mother, who forgave her son’s murderer and did not want him to receive the death penalty. Would I manifest such compassion? I hardly think so.