Not satisfied with putting on trial one infirm ethnic Ukrainian octogenarian for alleged Nazi-era war crimes, Germany wants to put another one in the dock. Germany, which razed much of the country and killed wantonly there during World War II, has opened a formal criminal investigation against an 88-year-old Ukrainian-born man living in the United States on suspicion that he committed murder while serving the Nazis, a prosecutor in Munich confirmed on March 27. The man, whose name has not been divulged, would join another Ukrainian-born man, John Demjanjuk, 89, accused of being an accessory to 27,900 Nazi death camp murders while working as a guard for the Nazi SS.
The new inquiry was reported by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and confirmed to the German Press Agency dpa by a Munich prosecutions spokeswoman.
It focuses on a man said to have worked as an auxiliary to the German occupation police in Lviv, Ukraine in 1942.
Witnesses have claimed he shot dead at least one Jewish resident of the city.
The newspaper said prosecutors believed they had compelling evidence so far and were assessing whether this would suffice to seek his arrest and to bring him to trial.
The man rejected the allegations.
The news come with Demjanjuk again in the dock for allegedly helping murder up to 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland in 1943.
The 89-year-old Demjanjuk is now on trial in Munich.
His is billed as the last big Nazi-era war crimes trial.
The case is a milestone for Germany. Never before has such a minor figure been charged without a shred of evidence of a specific offence.
The U.S. deported Demjanjuk to Germany last May, despite protests from his son and family that Demjanjuk was too ill for the flight, let alone a trial.
Demjanjuk, a native of Ukraine, is not the first presumed Nazi helper that the United States has deported to Germany. More than 100 men have had their US citizenship revoked for concealing their Nazi past, and 27 of them ended up in Germany.
This is not the first time, Demjanjuk has faced similar charges.
In 1987, Israel put him in the dock again after his adopted homeland, the United States, stripped him of his citizenship and deported him.
That time, Demjanjuk was not tried as a camp guard at Sobibor. Instead he was accused of being the especially sadistic, "Ivan The Terrible", who served at the Treblinka camp.
At first Demjanjuk was found guilty and was set to be executed, like Adolf Eichmann, the only top Nazi leader hanged in Israel.
But in 1993, Israeli judges overturned the decision.
Many legal experts are scratching their heads over why Germany why now.
A renowned Dutch professor of criminal law, Christiaan F. Rüter has described the trial as one directed against “the smallest of the small fish.”
Rüter stated: “High ranking officials, officers, commanders have all been able to draw their pensions in peace, now this old man is expected to take the rap for everything.”
Others point out Demjanjuk and this latest Ukrainian were not willing agents of the Nazis, but rather prisoners-of-war dragooned into service.
John Rosenthal, however, points out even if Demjanjuk was at Sobibor, he was not a Nazi.
But even if this should be true, Demjanjuk was not a Nazi, much less an SS man, as is commonly suggested. Demjanjuk was in fact himself a Red Army soldier who was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1942 and interred at a Soviet POW camp at Chelm in occupied Poland. If Demjanjuk served the Germans at all, he did so as a so-called SS “Hilfswilliger,” which is to say, a “volunteer helper” of the SS.
Moreover, the “voluntary” character of these “volunteers” must be regarded as a highly relative matter. The brutality displayed by the Germans to Soviet prisoners of war is legendary. In keeping with the Nazi disdain for Slavs — or Slavic “sub-humans,” as the Nazis labeled them — captured Red Army soldiers were notoriously permitted to starve to death. It is estimated that over half of the Soviet soldiers captured by the Germans died in captivity.
But now it is the Germans putting a Ukrainian to trial.
That for many Ukrainians is farce at best, outrageous, and immoral, at worse.
Tetiania Djeruk, from Demjanjuk's childhood hometown of Dubovy Makharyntsy, perhaps puts voice best to what many Ukrainians feel.
"It was war then. We weren't the ones who started the war, it was the Germans. Now they want to put a Ukrainian on trial for these crimes!"