Saturday, June 02, 2001

Nazi guards' role explained

Demjanjuk says historian is biased

By Thomas J. Sheeran
The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — A government witness against an alleged Nazi death camp guard testified Friday that guards were involved in all facets of persecuting Jews.

        Charles W. Sydnor, a Richmond, Va., historian who has written about the Holocaust, testified for a third day at the citizenship revocation trial of John Demjanjuk, 81, of suburban Seven Hills.

        Mr. Demjanjuk was convicted and later cleared in Israel as the sadistic death camp guard “Ivan the Terrible” at Treblinka, Poland, during World War II. The Justice Department now argues that Mr. Demjanjuk became a guard at other death and forced-labor camps.

        Mr. Demjanjuk, who hasn't appeared at the trial, says he served in the Soviet Army, was captured in 1942 and remained in German prisoner of war camps.

        Mr. Sydnor testified that guards rotated among assignments that included serving as watch tower and perimeter guards at camps. He said guards had a standing order for handling escape attempts: “Shoot.”

        In addition, he testified, all guards at the various camps were called to security duty when a train arrived with new prisoners. Guards also helped round up Jews living in rural areas and city ghettos, Mr. Sydnor testified.

        Attorneys for Mr. Demjanjuk had argued that the scholar was biased against the defendant from his work on prior prosecutions of Mr. Demjanjuk. The judge agreed to let Mr. Sydnor to testify.

        The defense began its cross-examination of Mr. Sydnor late Friday afternoon, with attorney Michael Tigar eliciting Mr. Sydnor's acknowledgment that many immigrants that came to the United States used different names in their homeland.

        Earlier in the week, Mr. Sydnor testified that Nazi-era documents showed a guard by the name of Ivan Demjanjuk with the same birthdate and birthplace as the defendant had served at the Sobibor, Okzow and Majdanek camps in Poland and the Flossenburg camp in Germany.

        John Demjanjuk, who denies aiding the Nazis, went by the name Ivan Demjanjuk in his native Ukraine. He emigrated after World War II to the United States and retired from a Ford Motor Co. plant in Cleveland.

        Defense attorneys have argued that John Demjanjuk is not the same person as the Nazi guard identified in wartime documents.

        Mr. Demjanjuk lost his citizenship in 1981, he had it restored on appeal in 1998 and the government acted in 1999 to revoke it again. The government is trying to prove that he lied about his wartime activities in his application to come to the United States.

        U.S. District Court Judge Paul R. Matia is hearing the case without a jury. The trial, which is expected to last three weeks, will be in recess Monday because of scheduling conflicts and will resume Tuesday.


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