Demjanjuk attorney: Client suffered like Jews did
MUNICH – John Demjanjuk's attorney argued Thursday for his client's acquittal on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder at the Nazis' Sobibor death camp, saying the 91-year-old alleged former guard suffered as much as the Jews did at the hands of Nazis.
The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk was a young Soviet army soldier when he was captured in 1942 by the Nazis during World War II and thrown into a prisoner of war camp. Prosecutors say after that, he agreed to serve as a guard and trained at the SS Trawniki camp before being sent to Sobibor.
But Demjanjuk says he was held prisoner for most of the rest of the war and never served as a guard in any camp.
In his third day of closing arguments, attorney Ulrich Busch said Ukrainians and other Soviet prisoners were held in what amounted to death camps themselves, where millions died.
"They were considered subhuman; Jews, Ukrainians or Gypsies did not count" for the Nazis, he told the court.
Several members of Munich's Ukrainian community appeared in court to support Demjanjuk, who lay in a bed as he has for most of the trial, wearing sunglasses and showing no reaction.
Cornelius Nestler, who represents the families of Sobibor victims who have joined the trial as co-plaintiffs, accused Busch outside the court of distorting history.
"Mr. Busch has built a parallel world that has nothing to do with the truths we have heard in the courtroom," he told reporters.
But Demjanjuk's son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said the comparison Busch made is legitimate.
"Trial records confirmed 3.5 million Soviet POWs died in German captivity — a POW holocaust by starvation," he said in an email to The Associated Press. "My father survived such torture under the rule of Stalin as a child and at the hands of the Nazis as a young man. One people's suffering should not be greater than another."
Busch resumes his closing arguments on May 10, with a verdict possible by May 12.
David Rising contributed to this report from Berlin.