Demjanyuk became a "revisionist" icon for a very good reason. A botched Israeli trial gave deniers a chance to argue once again that Holocaust witnesses' testimonies are unreliable, that the evidence was forged, that the Nazi hunters were after innocent people, etc.
I'm not going to defend the first Israeli Demjanyuk trial. I reject the argument that since in the end Demjanyuk's death sentence was overturned, the justice was served. That happened by chance - USSR fell and new, exculpating evidence appeared. There never was any documentary evidence presented for Demjanyuk ever being in Treblinka, and the sentencing was based mostly on the unreliable identification procedures.
Neither am I going to defend OSI's conduct. In 1993 the judges of the US Court of Appeals of 6th Circuit concluded:
Thus, we hold that the OSI attorneys acted with reckless disregard for the truth and for the government's obligation to take no steps that prevent an adversary from presenting his case fully and fairly. This was fraud on the court in the circumstances of this case where, by recklessly assuming Demjanjuk's guilt, they failed to observe their obligation to produce exculpatory materials requested by Demjanjuk.In fact, we will see an example of such a fraud very soon.
What I am going to argue is that the historical conclusions that deniers draw from this case are unwarranted.
But first let's establish what is known about Demjanyuk's war-time activities.
Ivan Nikolajevich Demjanyuk was born on April 30, 1920 in Dubovi Makharyntsi (Dubovyje Makharintsi) in Vinnits'ka (Vinnitskaja) oblast.
Several documents establish Demjanyuk's whereabouts during the war:
- Doc. no. 1. Found in Vinnits'ka oblast archive. Trawniki service identity pass no. 1393 identifies an Ukrainian, "Iwan Demjanjuk", son of "Nikolai", born on April 30, 1920 in "Duboimachariwzi", as serving in Okzow since September 22, 1942 and in Sobibor since March 27, 1943. This is the most famous document related to the Demjanyuk case. Deniers and Demjanyuk's defence argue that it is a KGB forgery. We will discuss these claims later. I have not seen any challenges to authenticity of the documents which follow.
- Doc. no. 2. Found in the Lithuanian Central State Archives in Vilnius. Disciplinary report of 20.01.1943. States that two days earlier 4 Trawniki-trained guards were apprehended for violating camp quarantine. One of the guards is identified as "Deminjuk", with identification number 1393 (i.e., the same as in the first document).
- Doc. no. 3. Found in FSB archives. Transfer roster which documents the transfer of 80 Trawnikis to Sobibor on March 26, 1943. 30th in the list is "Iwan Demianiuk", identification number 1393, with date and place of birth the same as John Demjanyuk. The date of transfer is compatible with the document no. 1.
- Doc. no. 4. Found in FSB archives. Transfer roster dated October 1, 1943, which documents the transfer of 140 men from Trawniki to Flossenbuerg. 53rd in the list is "Iwan Demianjuk", with the same date and place of birth and identification number as the previous Ivans.
- Doc. no. 5. Found in the German Federal Archives in Berlin. Flossenbuerg weapons log of April 1, 1944, which documents that Wachmann "Demianiuk" received a rifle on October 8, 1943, i.e. a week after the person in document no. 6 was transferred to Flossenbuerg.
- Doc. no. 6. Found in the German Federal Archives in Berlin. Flossenbuerg daily roster, which shows that on October 4, 1944, "Demenjuk 1393" was assigned to guard the Bunker Construction Detail.
- Doc. no. 7. Found in the German Federal Archives in Berlin. An undated Flossenbuerg roster of 117 guards, listing "Demenjuk" with identification no. 1393 in entry no. 44. The roster can be dated as created in the period from Dec. 10, 1944 to Jan. 15, 1945.
- Doc. no. 8. A very ironic item in the list - Demjanyuk's own "Application for Assistance", which he submitted in March of 1948 to the Preparatory Commission of the International Refugee Organization. While he supplied the false information about his residence throughout the war, he noted that from April 1937 to January 1943 he was a driver in "Sobibor, Chelm, Poland". Sobibor was not a well-known name at that time, and the fact that Demjanyuk himself wrote it down (even while giving the wrong dates and lying about being a driver there) is highly incriminating.
- Doc. no. 9. Finally, in his application for an American visa on December 27, 1951, Demjanyuk wrote that from 1936 to 1943 he resided in Sobibor, Poland.
So what can we say on the basis of these documents? Even if one disregards the first document as a forgery (and this hypothesis is debunked by all the subsequent documents), even then on the basis of the rest of them one can conclude that Demjanyuk did serve in pure extermination camp Sobibor, and also in Trawniki and Flossenbuerg. Since Demjanyuk denied having ever been in these camps, and concocted a false story about his whereabouts during the war, it can be concluded that probably he has something worse to hide. In any case, the image of a persecuted innocent person cannot be maintained.
Next >> Part 2