John Demjanjuk

From Ohio History Central

John Demjanjuk was born in Kiev in the Soviet Union in 1920. His birth name was Iwan Demjanjuk. In 1940, with World War II raging in Europe, he was drafted into the Soviet army. German forces captured him in 1942. It is unclear what happened to him for the remainder of the war, although some Jewish people claim that Demjanjuk was the notorious concentration-camp guard "Ivan the Terrible" at Treblinka.

In 1951, Demjanjuk immigrated to the United States, becoming a nationalized citizen in 1958. He lived in Indiana, but eventually moved to Seven Hills, Ohio, where he worked in an automobile plant. He eventually retired and now resides in Parma, Ohio.

In 1977, the United States Justice Department began proceedings to have Demjanjuk's citizenship revoked. The Justice Department accused Demjanjuk of concealing his concentration-camp service during World War II on his application for United States citizenship. In 1981, a federal judge revoked Demjanjuk's citizenship. His attorneys appealed the ruling, but in 1986, Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel to stand trial as "Ivan the Terrible."

The trial lasted from February 16, 1987, to April 18, 1988. Demjanjuk testified that he had served in the German army after his capture, but that he had done so only after spending two years in a prisoner-of-war camp. He also claimed that he had not been a concentration-camp guard, arguing that he had fought against Soviet forces as they invaded Germany in 1945. In 1988, two Israeli judges found Demjanjuk guilty and sentenced him to death by hanging. Over the next five years, Demjanjuk appealed, and the Israeli Supreme Court reversed the earlier verdict, declaring that there was not substantial enough evidence to prove that Demjanjuk was "Ivan the Terrible."

Following his release, Demjanjuk returned to the United States. The 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the earlier court's decision revoking Demjanjuk's citizenship and ordering his extradition from the United States. In 1998, Demjanjuk became a United States citizen. The federal government, once again, began legal proceedings to have Demjanjuk stripped of his citizenship and extradited from the United States. In 2002, the initial court agreed with the government. Demjanjuk appealed the decision, only to have the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals rule against him. In 2005, Demjanjuk continues his legal battle to remain in the United States.

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