Should this man be on trial?

John Demjanjuk is old and ill, and here you can see him arriving in court accused of helping to murder more than 27,000 Jews at a Nazi death camp. Is Germany right to pursue these charges? Is there still a value in going back over what happened in those death camps and trying to ascertain this man’s role? He is of course guilty until proven otherwise and what might the reprecussions if he is acquited?

And here is a TV news report on his deportation.

36 Responses to “Should this man be on trial?”

  1. 1 steve
    November 30, 2009 at 13:37

    I think you mean innocent unless proven otherwise. While I think the trial should be allowed, I think any punishment upon a conviction should be limited solely due to his age. He doesn’t have much time left anyways, and won’t be harming people again.

  2. November 30, 2009 at 14:28

    My personal opinion on this is to ban all types of religious symbols, however that’s my personal opinion.
    Politically you would have to ban all forms of symbols including the crucifix, the Swiss need to grow up and recognize that a persons individual rights come before their shallow outlook on life and stop portraying their ignorant rooted traditions that they have held in place since they were buddies with the Nazis.

    I’m surprised the Swiss nation can sleep at night.


  3. 3 Miriam Hyde
    November 30, 2009 at 15:15

    Yes, he should. I don’t care that he is old and infirm does not wipe out the fact that he worked in Sobibor, which was strictly a death camp. It may be true that he might not have been there by choice; I don’t know what he has buried in his heart. It may be true that he regrets what he did. He could have chosen to die rather than inflict pain and death.

    Jews, and others, were lied to when they were put on the trains. They were lied to when their possessions and clothing were taken away. They were lied to when told they were going to take showers. The only reason Sobibor existed was to murder people. It was not a concentration camp and not a work camp. It was a death camp.

    Demjanjuk participated in these actions. He lied about his identity ,he hid and he lived all these many years. Those taken to Sobibor did not have that chance. There are no time limits on murder. I don’t believe in the death penalty, but certainly, he must spend whatever is left of his life in a penitentiary without visitors and in solitary confinement.

  4. 4 Jennifer
    November 30, 2009 at 15:34

    Re: Should this man be on trial?


    Re:Is Germany right to pursue these charges?

    Despite the fact that this man is old and may never hurt anyone again; if he did indeed help murder innocent people he should be held accountable for that. I do not know laws but is there a statute of limitations on murder?

    Re: Is there still a value in going back over what happened in those death camps and trying to ascertain this man’s role.

    Yes. If this man is found guilty, I am not sure what punishment would be appropriate. I would imagine that living with the fact that you killed so many innocent people for no reason would be punishment enough for some….

    Re: He is of course guilty until proven otherwise and what might the reprecussions if he is acquited?

    I thought it was the other way around but I would not think that this man would be tried for this unless there was evidence to support some involvement on his part.

  5. 5 T
    November 30, 2009 at 15:44

    Yes, he should. And speaking of war crimes, you should also try Blair, Bush, Cheney and all the rest of them.

  6. 6 guykaks.nairobi
    November 30, 2009 at 16:10

    I feel nothing to anyone who kills and participate on any form of evil!let the man be on trial and if found guity he should be hanged..I hate to hear innocent blood is poured!

  7. 7 JanB
    November 30, 2009 at 16:24

    Don’t see why not. He is accused and there is evidence against him so there should be a trial. It shouldn’t matter whether he’s old and sick.

    Thank God he doesn’t live in Scotland…

  8. 8 Dennis Junior
    November 30, 2009 at 16:30


    Simple answer, YES he should be on trial….Because he is accused of crimes against people during the World War II….

    [Dennis @ Tc3]

  9. 9 Tom K in Mpls
    November 30, 2009 at 16:40

    He should be tried, but keep in mind, by all accounts, he was an unwilling minor. If I can believe the information coming out through the news, he should be tried, found guilty, and receive a suspended sentence.

    The reasons? He was conscripted, there is no evidence he partook directly in the nastier aspects of the camp, and he did not profit by these events. While it is important to prosecute the key people in any wrong doing, in large scale events it is wrong and logistically difficult to pursue all. Example, the second war in Iraq, Bush, Blair and a few others need to face charges. But it would undermine the economies and military to try and charge every soldier. Demjanjuk was a soldier, and deserves the same treatment unless evidence shows he willingly took direct part in the killing.

    • 10 Jennifer
      December 1, 2009 at 14:56

      I think by even being there he would have been condoning the murder of innocent people.

      This topic has nothing to do with Bush. Now people want to draw a line and compare him directly to those who would have concentration camps. I don’t think that’s applicable. George Bush simply tried to keep us safe from people who came HERE to kill innocent people. It wasn’t for hatred of differences.

      I thought those who were put into concentration camps-Jews, homosexuals, and special people were just simply hated for who they were. They didn’t bomb innocent people.

      Again, really bad comparison!

      It seems like the Bush bashing will never end.

  10. 11 patti in cape coral
    November 30, 2009 at 16:45

    I think I’m in agreement with Steve on this.

  11. 12 Elias
    November 30, 2009 at 17:04

    Theres no two ways about it, yes it is absolutely right he or any one else who is reponsible for the death of one or more persons should be tried for his crimes regardless of age. Considering the fact that men women and children from the ages of the very young to the very old like he is today were put to death in a violent and dispicable way, it is only just if found guilty he too should die for his crimes in the way he administered death to several others, however his only benefit would be that he is made to die in a more civilised humane way. Luckilly for him, all he will get is a prison sentence so that he will die of old age in prison which in itself is too lenient for him.

  12. 13 kamalanii
    November 30, 2009 at 17:25

    YES!!! The nazi have no merci for older people or anybody!!

  13. 14 JanB
    November 30, 2009 at 17:35

    @Tom K in Mpls

    Demjanjuk is accused of having been a member of the SS, like all concentration camp guards.
    The SS was an all-volunteer organisation, unlike the Wehrmacht (the regular army) which did include conscripts.
    So if he was indeed a member of the SS he bears full responsibility of whatever crimes he participated in.

    The concentration camps were hidden from the German public, the Nazi’s only trusted SS personnel to guard these camps and keep the secret, because they were highly motivated volunteers.

    • 15 Tom K in Mpls
      November 30, 2009 at 19:04

      I heard that too, but alway doubted the sources. That is the only reason I feel he should be tried. I suspect he will be cleared. We need to answer all questions. Also, many in the towns ‘kept the secret’, should we try them?

    • 16 Michel Norman
      November 30, 2009 at 19:37

      The concentration camps were not exactly hidden from the German people – Dachau had been around from the 1930’s, some of the camps were mere kilometers from towns and you could smell the burning flesh. The Nuremburg laws were published, the army saw what was going on. Even the British government knew by 1942, when a first hand account was given by an escapee.

  14. November 30, 2009 at 18:25

    Yes,he should be tried and punished,if found guilty.His age is quite immaterial.Some posts have pointed out that elderly people,at Sobibor,were gassed along with others.Their age did not matter,so why should his.

  15. 18 Tom D Ford
    November 30, 2009 at 18:48

    Yes, and I hope that someday everyone in the Bush/Cheney Administration gets the benefit of the same experience of being tried for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    In the US at least, there is no statute of limitations on murder and I would hope that the rest of the world is similar.

    We decent people of the world need to have very long memories and bring such people to justice.

    November 30, 2009 at 19:05

    This trial will achieve almost nothing. They let the man enjoy his most beautiful days of his life. As for now he is scenile and his opinion cannot be relied. Justice delayed is guilt condoned. The man has nothing to loose and even capital punishment might be a relief to him.

    He became part of an organization in which he had no say and could not change anything. Who knows where the rest of the citizens stood on this crime? All the corraborators are gone including key witnesses. It is bound to be nothing but a fiasco though I know we want to strike a blow for God. That is no relief and instead we should re-learn to ‘strike the iron when it is hot’. Somehow the trial will be conducted. I am just curious about it.

  17. 20 steve
    November 30, 2009 at 20:19

    WHYS, why are you allowing this topic to be misused by people who have no intention to discuss the topic at hand, but are here to Bush Bash. They need to get over it. He’s out of power, and that has NOTHING to do with this topic.

  18. 21 Rhiannon U.
    November 30, 2009 at 21:51

    I do not think he should be punished for this. He is old, and has spent his whole life being tortured by this. It was different times back then, it was Germany’s government. How can they punish something they themselves did not prevent?

  19. December 1, 2009 at 03:12

    Continuing to “fight” the remnants of WWII Nazism we can allign ourselves with history’s greatest heroes and assuage our guilt about involvement in modern wars. Demjanjuk’s conviction will neither prevent future war crimes, nor contribute to justice in any sense but that retribution heals. http://1uk45z.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/demjanjuk-nazi-war-crimes-trial/

  20. 23 mike Johnson
    December 1, 2009 at 06:28

    it appears I have been censored for suggesting the Israeli Defence Force be put up for war crimes in Gaza. The killing of innocent men women and children….something a little more topical than a ninety year old nazi.
    Thank you BBC for confirming my suspicions that you are indeed run by the jewish lobby and will not print anything vaguely negative towards Israel.

    • 24 Michel Norman
      December 1, 2009 at 15:38

      A British Commander in Afghanistan has come on record stating that no army in history has done more to avoid civilian casualties that the IDF in Gaza. So why do you write in suggesting that IDF soldiers be put up for war crime trials, and not the British Army for causing countless more deaths in Iraq, why do you not call for the Hammas terrorists who caused the civilian casualties to be put on trial? Bias perhaps??

  21. 25 Vijay Pillai
    December 1, 2009 at 10:55

    There is no point in contribting on anthing unless it is a lesson for somenthing else.This trial must be lesson for those who commit genocide of other races as well now and into he future whether in middle east or sudan or srilanka or elsewhere.

    • 26 sally
      December 2, 2009 at 18:01

      or gaza too!

    • 27 Jeanne
      December 15, 2009 at 01:28

      Vijay Pillai is right. This must be a lesson for all who come after and believe they can get away with genocide. This man must make his own peace with God. We cannot make it for him. He is responsible unto his own actions, and he has lived without repercussion all this time. This was done unto the Jews. What happens when the oppressors come for your countrymen, then your acquaintances, then your friends and family, and finally, when they come for you and your children?

  22. 28 MCollson
    December 1, 2009 at 13:56

    No, he should not be on trial. The man is 89. I believe in justice – but justice must be married to humanity as well. Those who are so blindly ramming justice down the throats of the world audience in this case need to open their eyes, use their minds, search their souls and wake up to the fact that They look as bad as the inhuman Nazis of the past in so tormenting a dying man. For Mr. Demanjuk, a higher Court is days, months away. That is enough. This trial is barbaric and an affront to our common humanity.

  23. 29 steve
    December 1, 2009 at 17:11

    @ Michel

    Israelis tend to be Jews, that’s why.

  24. 30 Alan Beutal
    December 2, 2009 at 05:40

    MCollision compares us, today, to the infamous Nazis of before, for putting John Demanjuk on trial. Unbelievable! We are so barbaric. Personally, I’d like to string Demanjuk up with piano wire, but I guess we should just stick to being barbaric.

  25. 31 steve
    December 2, 2009 at 10:12


    Something tells me that the Nazis of the 1930s and 1940s didn’t give their victims the due process that Demnjanjuk has recieved. And even if convicted, he will unlikely see any jail, let alone execution, unlike the victims of the nazis who were either sent to concentration camps as slave labor, to death camps to be murdered, or the be executed by guillotine. Remember, the Nazis would execute people for speaking their minds. Read about Max and Sophie Scholl, who were guillontined for writing pamphlets at their university in Munich. WHat’s happening to him cannot be compared to what the Nazis did.

  26. 32 Phxky
    December 2, 2009 at 21:43

    Yes, without doubt. As one survivor stated, the most important thing of all is that he admits what he did – not if he goes to jail or how he is punished – but that he tells the truth, because more and more people try to claim that the Holocaust never happened.

  27. 33 mat hendriks
    December 3, 2009 at 13:11

    Yes .

    No mercy, no mercy,
    for this kind of criminals is ordered.
    He should live in complete darkness, for ever.
    On earth and in hell.

  28. 34 Insan Mukmin
    December 23, 2009 at 02:36

    Putting this old man on trial is a waste of resources. What about the genocides happening today? Shouldn’t we be putting an end to present day genocides instead of engaging in a witch hunt for a genocide that occurred 60 years ago? Either put a stop to genocides at the beginning of their life cycle or don’t bother doing anything at all. Putting on trial the perpetrators of genocide when they are sick and dying is meaningless to the victims of the genocide. Reminds me of a proverb in Malaysia – “There is no point to the hammer and chisel getting all worked up when the house is already completed”. You can’t change the past. You should learn from the past to prevent future mistakes. Instead we prefer to dwell on the past while neglecting present commitments.

  29. 35 maria
    January 19, 2010 at 18:00

    This genocide occured 65 years ago. This trial is importnat for relatives, because it is not revenge, it is justice.

  30. 36 phil
    February 24, 2010 at 20:18

    The Sobidor prison guard Demjanjuk is at the very bottom of the pyramid of NAZI criminals so why has Gemany allowed so many high ranking Nazis to hide in the past and those still alive today, continue to hide. Why has Germany put so much effort to bring this lowly prison guard to trial -any answers out there?

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