May 12, 2009
Posted: 1812 GMT
After lengthy court battles John Demjanjuk, 89, a purported Nazi concentration camp guard accused of being responsible for some 29,000 deaths during World War II, has finally arrived on German soil to face that country's criminal courts.

Demjanjuk has been in this position, when, being accused of having been Ivan the Terrible, a notoriously brutal guard at the Treblinka concentration camp, he was found guilty in an Israeli court in the late 1980s and sentenced to death for his crimes. Subsequent refutations of the facts led to him being exonerated and he returned to his life in the United States.

This recent saga got me thinking about the culpability we still assign– 64 years after the end of the war– to these diminutive holdovers of evil.

I recently read a novel titled ‘The Kindly Ones’ by Jonathan Littell. Told from the viewpoint of a Nazi bureaucrat, it makes the case (among many cases) that men like Demjanjuk were merely tools of a twisted regime, doing what they were told was their duty. It's not necessarily an idea I believe, it's much more complicated–almost unapproachable in its philosophy. The notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann used this argument in his trial in Israel, stating he was merely a puppet, carrying out orders. He was convicted and executed.

The argument continues that the real men of evil—the ones we should hold accountable– were the architects, the brutal designers, the puppet masters of the committed atrocities. Who those people are is vague in and of it self for where does the authoritative voice become the subservient one? Who is the voice of "reason" and who complacently follows "reason" to its inexorable end?

No doubt if Demjanjuk is guilty of what he is accused of he did monstrous things. But after living a full life, what is the value of this delayed justice? What do all those who suffered from his acts or from acts similar to his feel about this man who represents so many things to so many people?

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Sterling   May 12th, 2009 6:16 pm ET

I can't understand the Jewish joy nor the media hype over sending this 89 year-old WW II relic back to Germany for trial. Why not try some current war criminals, like Jewish Prime Ministers and IDF officers or George W. Bush and his Disciples, who are certainly responsible for more deaths than this near dead creep?

the swede   May 12th, 2009 6:27 pm ET

It's all a mad witchhunt to cut of the heads of a beast that is since long dead.

One should look into who these "nazi hunters" are and what they have to gain from this.
With that said all soldiers should be very wary of what they themself do in war, so not to tread on the wrong toes. By all means tread on all the "right" ones, but kiss the ones of those that have the backing to hunt you later on. Pol Pot's men and accomplices together with the ones in the soviet union live on, they must have chosen the right toes to tread on.
But the stupid nazis went after gods chosen people and thus shall burn in hell forever and ever til time and times are done.

Thushan Gunawardana   May 12th, 2009 6:54 pm ET


kovanam   May 12th, 2009 6:57 pm ET

If you can't stop the current genocide in SriLanka and sudan,then this nazi hunting is a joke.

dani   May 12th, 2009 7:46 pm ET

With all the respect to thouse who lost someone in the holocaust i STRONGLY DISAGREE with hunting some old farts , IF THE JEWISH NATION IS BETTER THEN THE NAZIS ,THE THEY SHOULD GIVE AN EXAMPLE OF TOLERANCE AND FORGIVNESS , move on and love again...

nirsath   May 12th, 2009 7:52 pm ET


Texan231   May 12th, 2009 7:55 pm ET

I think that if it is proved that this is the right descision. Alot of people get away with things by saying there is no evidence but why then was he convicted of these murders in another country. So there must be some truth to it. If he is responsible he deserves what he recieves because theses families cannot get they're family back.

Jean Rey   May 12th, 2009 8:01 pm ET

YES. Justice delayed is justice denied , yes. However, if J. Demjanjuk is sent to trial and proven guilty , it will help show the world that no crime gets unpaid. .. and war crimes at that.

CJ   May 12th, 2009 8:04 pm ET

Its wrong to bring him to ???, because of following: Every 3erd german over 88 y.o. was on east-front in eastern europe (in Russia, in Ukraine etc.) and participated in real MASS MURDERS on civilians. Its about 17 MILIONS of civilians, that were killed there by nazis. If they are living never been sentenced, so what for justice is it, if we sentence a nazi-helper? We can point on them now and SAY REALLY LOUDLY, that what they have done is really durty BARBARIC! Using all medias incl. school books! Other ways, using this kind of judge, we will be another type of barbarians – in sense of christianity...

Daniela   May 12th, 2009 8:08 pm ET

No matter what the age is, he has to pay for what he did when he was younge. If he had the power to be involve in so many deaths, he has to have the same power to stand in front of a trial.

After this we have to look for a way to stop SriLanka and Sudan war, so we dont have to wait 60 more years to make justice.

Daniela – Ecuador

CJ   May 12th, 2009 8:33 pm ET

Its wrong to bring him to ???, because of following: Every 3erd german over 88 y.o. was on east-front in eastern europe (in Russia, in Ukraine etc.) and participated in real MASS MURDERS on civilians. Its about 17 MILIONS of civilians, that were killed there by nazis! If they are living never been sentenced, so what for justice is it, if we sentence a nazi-helper? We can point on them now and SAY REALLY LOUDLY, that what they have done is really durty BARBARIC! Using all medias incl. school books! Other ways, using this kind of justice, we will be another type of barbarians – in sense of christianity! And if we could bring to justice all of this nazis, whats about forgivness?

Ana Clara   May 12th, 2009 8:47 pm ET

I don't understand why we let Jews get away with all the war crimes they committed when they, of all people, should know what it feels like to be the victims. The old guy probably already feels really bad IF, and ONLY IF, he really was a guard.

How about looking at Africa for a change? We always forget those who need our help the most. What is prosecuting one guard going to do after the Nuremberg Trials? Let's prosecute current mass murderers in Israel, Gaza, all of Africa, and yes, the U.S. of A!

Peter Stokes   May 13th, 2009 2:52 am ET

War is bad, but sometimes necessary.
Victim mentality is a choice. People who continue to hunt down so-called guilty parties need to move on – look to the future not the past.
No single person who lost relatives in WW2 can gain any joy from a guilty verdict against this man because they will never really know he was responsible for the death of their relatives.
Stop the witch hunt. Not only of anyone who might be guilty of participation in past wars but also of those who question the unaccountable statistics.
Too many people live in fear of political correctness today, instead of enjoying the freedom of speech we should enjoy and that might just stop another world war.

Rachel   May 13th, 2009 1:31 pm ET

If this man was accused of raping and murdering one little girl that we could see a picture of, no one would care how long ago it was or how old he was and no one would DARE to suggest that he must already "feel bad." This man is accused of brutally murdering 29,000 people. Can you even imagine 29,000 people? Each of them was a person as complete as each of us and they died brutally. Justice is not supposed to be about making the relatives feel better – it is about making a man pay for the crimes he has committed. The fact that he has been allowed to live a normal life in the US for 60 years only makes the situation more aggregious.

Of course there are other, more recent genocides and war crimes and there are more perpetrators than we will ever bring to trial, but that does not excuse letting one single perpetrator go.

Janani   May 14th, 2009 2:44 pm ET

i could imagine he would have done so much horrible things to jewish people, he shoud go thru the paid be he die, then only he will understand the pain, the people went thru be he die!!!!
not just a deportation

Ana Clara   May 14th, 2009 7:33 pm ET

Rachel, I can understand where you are coming from and I would like to cite a well known psychological experiment.
The Milgrim Study was conducted in 1974 by Stanley Milgrim to test obedience to authority. And well, if you have ever heard of this study, you know that the teachers kept shocking the supposed students. All 40 teachers questioned the experiment, none stopped before administering a 300V shock, and 14 stopped before shocking the student with 450V.

So, is proved that tho they might question the method, 35% will stop. 65% will continue. And in the circumstance the Nazi guards were, I would say 100% of them continued to save their own lives.

And if most Nazi guards have died by now, why should we waste time and resources on the old geizers if we could try to bring these "more perpetrators than we will ever bring to trial."

Yeah...I'm betting every victim in Darfur, Rwanda, and other places will understand that we like to protect the Jews much more than we like protecting the less fortunate people in Africa. (That was sarcasm, btw)

Leah   August 31st, 2009 6:25 pm ET

I appreciate every article CNN produces, but somebody let a plural possessive slip in the first paragraph, when it was supposed to be singular. Embarrassing.

Alright, I'll quit being snooty now.

Shanthi Siva   September 1st, 2009 7:39 pm ET

They are spending so much time with this 89 old criminal now, at the same time, why can bring other murders who are still murdering innocent people, in so many countries example in Sri Lanka President Rajapakse & his brother all killing thousands of Tamil people including children brutally

but the whole world is still watching the murders

so sad, is in it??????????

Peter Stokes   September 2nd, 2009 8:05 am ET

I agree with you Shanthi.
But you need to realise it is about political clout not justice and maintaining victimhood.
I have nothing agaibst jewish people But I wish their leadership were as wisew as that of East Timor – when the war had finnished they said enough of the past we must look to the future – a victim mentality simply drags people down.
Yes, we need justice, true Justice but it has become corrupted by political correctness an obscure sense of revenge.
Very sad.

sedat yazici ph 317 736 7761   June 12th, 2010 2:17 am ET

this note for the mr zekaria guest x bush personenel claim to proteck
israil from turkey hey yo iwastere when israel be come counrty first truck load food first bulit ship out to un anunce terrotery turkey giveto jew wach your dollar you lost money isthat why you put dirt on others you mus be the one makin israel fight more than 50 year in usa ve retired 20 years time they ned to honer piece agremement other wise there wont be piece botherway i was there when 20'000 jew stage to go to there new country sincerely sedat yazici

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