Holocaust survivor wants to testify for Demjanjuk
Friday, May 05, 2006
Plain Dealer Reporter
A Holocaust survivor came to the defense of accused Nazi guard John Demjanjuk Thursday in a civil trial against the Seven Hills man. Martin Lax, a Cleveland businessman, showed up in court and offered to testify in a lawsuit filed by Jerome Brentar, who wants $2 million from the Demjanjuk family for helping Demjanjuk fight charges that he was a Nazi guard. Lax, 81, told a judge that he walked out of the Gunskirchen concentration camp in Austria 61 years ago, after spending time at Auschwitz and other camps. The thought that a Holocaust survivor would testify on Demjanjuk's behalf stunned the handful of people in the courtroom of Cuyahoga County Com mon Pleas Judge Timo thy McGinty.
"On the face of it, it is very strange that a survivor would con tribute in any way to the defense of a Nazi war criminal," Alan Rosenbaum, author of the book Prosecuting Nazi War Criminals, said later in an interview. McGinty questioned Lax with the jury out of the courtroom. The judge ruled that Lax could testify to the jury today.
Brentar sued Demjanjuk and his family to get payment for his expenses and 26 trips to Europe in the 1980s and 1990s. Demjanjuk's family says there was never an agreement to repay Brentar, that Brentar went out on his own. The family contends that Brentar was pushing his neo-Nazi views, which Lax abhors. Lax told McGinty that he spoke with Brentar in 1986. "He bragged about spending his money out of the goodness of his heart," Lax said.
Demjanjuk was sentenced to death in Israel for being a camp guard. The conviction was later overturned. He returned to the United States in 1993, and federal prosecutors accused him of being a guard at three camps. In December, a judge ordered him deported, a ruling he is appealing.
Lax said he believes Demjanjuk was a guard at the camps, saying in an interview that "he's one of them, a Nazi."
The crucial point seems to be that the survivor, Martin Lax, can testify to what Brentar said at the time of the original Demjanjuk trial in the 1980s: "He bragged about spending his money out of the goodness of his heart."