Facing charges of being an accessory to the deaths of 29,000 Jews in World War II, John Demjanjuk, an alleged former Nazi death camp guard to Germany, is in jail in Munich. (photo, from aljazeera.net)
He arrived in Germany on Tuesday morning, and is now in Stadelheim prison, where he will undergo a medical check and then have his pages-long arrest warrant read out to him, said prosecutors.
Mr Demjanjuk, 89, denies accusations that he worked as a guard in the Sobibor Nazi death camp and says he was captured by the Germans in his native Ukraine during the war and kept as a prisoner of war.
His family has fought deportation, arguing that he is in poor health and might not survive the trans-Atlantic journey. They say they will continue the fight even though he has now left the US.
A German judge in Munich issued an arrest warrant in March, which led to his deportation. Mr Demjanjuk is accused of assisting in the deaths of thousands of Jews at the Sobibor extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
A first attempt to deport him was aborted last month, after a court intervened following a petition from his family that he was too ill to be moved.
But US government investigators presented the courts with a recent video purporting to show Mr Demjanjuk walking unaided, and the intervention was overturned.
On Monday, he was taken by ambulance from his home and put on board a chartered jet leaving Cleveland airport, Ohio, for Munich.
Mr Demjanjuk, using a wheelchair, said nothing as he was put on the aeroplane, said an airport official.
Last of many legal moves
A list of “Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals” compiled by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a body established to locate and bring former Nazis to justice, Mr Demjanjuk has been No 1.
His case is expected to be the last trial of someone accused of Nazi war crimes, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, a founder of the centre.
“His work at the Sobibor death camp was to push men, women and children into the gas chamber”, Hier said in a statement.
“He had no mercy, no pity and no remorse for the families whose lives he was destroying.”
Mr Demjanjuk’s deportation mightn end a long series of legal moves against him.
He moved to the US in 1952 and was stripped of his citizenship in 1981, as the US justice department ruled that he had hidden his past at the Treblinka concentration camp.
In 1986, he was extradited to Israel and sentenced to death two years later, after a court found him guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
That verdict was overturned in 1993, when Israel’s supreme court ruled he was not the guard known as “Ivan the Terrible”. His US citizenship was restored.
But his citizenship was revoked again in 2002 after a civil complaint from the US justice department claiming he had worked at three other camps and had concealed that information when he first entered the US.
In December 2006, his deportation was ordered. Yet, as no other countries demanded that he be sent to them, the order remained in the US fighting legal challenges.
Last year, prosecutors were asked by Kurt Schrimm, Germany’s chief Nazi war crimes investigator, to charge Mr Demjanjuk with involvement in the murder of 29,000 Jews.
Mr Schrimm said he had evidence that Demjanjuk had been a guard at Sobibor and personally led Jews to the gas chambers.
“Given the history of this case and not a shred of evidence that he ever hurt one person let alone murdered anyone anywhere, this is inhuman”, Demjanjuk’s son, John Demjanjuk Jr, told Reuters.
“This is a vendetta in the falsified name of justice with the hope that somehow Germany will atone for its past.”