MUNICH – John Demjanjuk told a Munich state court Tuesday he would go on hunger strike unless judges pursue more evidence which he claims could exonerate him of charges he served as a Nazi death camp guard.
A verdict in Demjanjuk's trial is expected as early as March. The Ukrainian-born former Ohio autoworker accused the panel of judges who have heard the case over the last 15 months of turning "a blind eye to justice" by repeatedly rejecting defense motions for more documents.
"Germany, the nation which murdered with merciless cruelty millions of innocent people, attempts to extinguish my dignity, my soul, my spirit, and indeed my life with a political show trial, seeking to blame me, a Ukrainian peasant, for the crimes committed by Germans in World War II," he said in a statement read to the court by his attorney, Ulrich Busch.
The judges showed little reaction after the statement was read in full, only asking Demjanjuk whether the words were his own, to which he nodded.
Demjanjuk, 90, is accused of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder for allegedly having been a guard at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland.
The prosecution argues that after Demjanjuk, a Soviet Red Army soldier, was captured by the Germans in 1942, he agreed to serve under the SS as a guard.
Demjanjuk denies ever serving as a guard. He says he spent most of the rest of the war after being captured in Nazi camps for prisoners of war before joining the so-called Vlasov Army of anti-communist Soviet POWs and others. That army was formed to fight with the Germans against the encroaching Soviets in the final months of the war.
Demjanjuk entered court Tuesday holding a sign reading "1627" — the number of a 1,400-page Soviet investigative file on his alleged wartime activities — that the defense has asked the court to try and obtain from Moscow several times.
Busch has argued that the file could contain documents which could prove that a Sobibor identity card attributed to Demjanjuk actually was that of another guard.
The court has rejected the request for the files, saying it is simply a defense "hypothesis" that there could be details on the identity card there.
According to a letter from Ukrainian authorities to the American Embassy in Kiev from 2001, obtained by The Associated Press, the investigation of Demjanjuk documented in file "1627" was carried out in 1979-1980 and all materials were sent to what was at that time the Soviet Prosecutor General's office in Moscow.
But the Russian Prosecutor General's Office told the AP earlier this month that it does not have the files and does not know where they are.
Demjanjuk said in his statement that if the court did not attempt to find the file, and others, he would "within two weeks begin a hunger strike."
Following Demjanjuk's statement, Busch read through a raft of new motions for more evidence and on scores of other requests.
After more than 100 such requests, prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz asked the judges to order Busch to present any further motions in written form, accusing him of trying to bring the trial to a standstill.
"This is clearly to delay the proceedings," the prosecutor 0said.
The court indicated, however, that it would allow the motions to proceed when the trial resumes Wednesday.
Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this story.