91-year-old gets 5 years in prison for helping to kill 28,000 Jews

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I'm sure he'll promise never to do it again.

28,000 counts of murder or assisted murder, even with "time served", ought be a bit more than 5 years no? Sure he's 91 with an incurable condition, but there are plenty of other cases where long sentences are given to people who clearly won't survive them as a symbolic measure.

krev82 wrote:

28,000 counts of murder or assisted murder, even with "time served", ought be a bit more than 5 years no? Sure he's 91 with an incurable condition, but there are plenty of other cases where long sentences are given to people who clearly won't survive them as a symbolic measure.

There are also cases where short sentences are given to terminal patients who turn out to live way longer than anyone expected. Maybe they're counting Jews as pets instead of people.

LobsterMobster wrote:

Maybe they're counting Jews as pets instead of people. :P

Yeah, five years doesn't sound like a lot, but that's 17 life sentences in Jew-years.

The judges are convinced Demjanjuk was a Russian prisoner of war in 1942 and was trained as a guard at a camp in Trawniki, Poland, Ralph Alt, the presiding judge, said when delivering the court’s reasoning. Demjanjuk was transferred to Sobibor in 1943 where he helped kill Jews as one of the so-called “Trawniki men,” as they were known, according to the judge.

They ran out of important Germans to hang long ago. Now they're down to the little fish. I don't know the guy's full story, but Russian prisoners of war lived like animals. I'd like to say that I'd never volunteer for something like that to get out of hell, but if I was raised in a country run by stalinists and culturally riddled with a long history of virulent anti-semitism, my moral compass might have been a lit skewed to begin with.

I've certainly never been in a position where I was starving and thought I was going to die and someone told me I could live provided I went and brutalized a bunch of people that society had told me from birth were parasites, child molesters, and the source of everything that was wrong with the world.

Funkenpants wrote:

I've certainly never been in a position where I was starving and thought I was going to die and someone told me I could live provided I went and brutalized a bunch of people that society had told me from birth were parasites, child molesters, and the source of everything that was wrong with the world.

No one wants to hear you brag about your sheltered childhood.

(And you also make a very sobering point.)

Yonder wrote:

No one wants to hear you brag about your sheltered childhood.

Well, my ancestors did murder a lot of indians and herd them into reservations. It's not like I'm totally disconnected from this stuff.

Funkenpants wrote:
Yonder wrote:

No one wants to hear you brag about your sheltered childhood.

Well, my ancestors did murder a lot of indians and herd them into reservations. It's not like I'm totally disconnected from this stuff.

Ah ok, at least you have some street cred.

I'm sorry, but I've always thought that following orders was a very good defense, particularly when the alternative was death. People follow those in authority. They just do. They always do, they always have, they probably always will.

I think that legacy of Nuremberg, the refusal to understand that basic part of psychology, is a terrible one.

Going against orders can result in a horrific price; look at Bradley Manning. Manning's situation is quite similar to this one, except that he made the 'correct' choice.

I'd like to say that I'd never volunteer for something like that to get out of hell, but if I was raised in a country run by stalinists and culturally riddled with a long history of virulent anti-semitism, my moral compass might have been a lit skewed to begin with.

I've certainly never been in a position where I was starving and thought I was going to die and someone told me I could live provided I went and brutalized a bunch of people that society had told me from birth were parasites, child molesters, and the source of everything that was wrong with the world.

I am not so sure about the "stalinism" and virulent "anti-semitism" combination. While it's true that anti-semitism flourished in Tzarist Russia, with tacit approval from the Orthodox Church, many of the revolutionaries and first commissars were Jews, and the influence of the Church itself was severely diminished. It is in the Soviet period when the Jews were allowed to excel in industry, arts, and academia, and received their own autonomous republic within the Russian Federation.

Did Stalin repress and exterminate Jews? Sure did. Just like he repressed and exterminated Slavs (with more Ukrainians alone perishings than Jews in the Holocaust), North Caucasians, Balts, Koreans etc. Does this diminish the crime of anyone becoming an executioner at a death camp? I don't think so.

It's not stalinism working with traditional anti-semitism that's significant, but rather the effects of stalinism as a brutal political system that mandated a high level of ideological obedience and compliance from citizens. Couple that with a historical culture, like the rest of western Europe, that saw jews as parasites and agents of evil. Morals are learned, not innate, this guy did not grow up in post-Holocaust society. There are psychological phenomena like empathy that can work outside cultural morality, but there's a limit to how much it will contradict social morality. There are things that you believe today that future generations will find abhorrent. That's almost guaranteed.

Did Stalin repress and exterminate Jews? Sure did. Just like he repressed and exterminated Slavs (with more Ukrainians alone perishings than Jews in the Holocaust), North Caucasians, Balts, Koreans etc.

I don't see how this supports your argument. If anything, suggesting that brutality was this widespread just means that people would have believed in the normality of execution based on ethnicity. You're talking about a guy who would have grown up in an environment in which being killed on a whim by the state was part of living in society.

Malor wrote:

I'm sorry, but I've always thought that following orders was a very good defense, particularly when the alternative was death. People follow those in authority. They just do. They always do, they always have, they probably always will.

I think that legacy of Nuremberg, the refusal to understand that basic part of psychology, is a terrible one.

Going against orders can result in a horrific price; look at Bradley Manning. Manning's situation is quite similar to this one, except that he made the 'correct' choice.

I'm not a soldier, but to my recollection, I believe that it is their duty to not follow illegal orders.

Malor wrote:

I'm sorry, but I've always thought that following orders was a very good defense, particularly when the alternative was death. People follow those in authority. They just do. They always do, they always have, they probably always will.

I think that legacy of Nuremberg, the refusal to understand that basic part of psychology, is a terrible one.

Going against orders can result in a horrific price; look at Bradley Manning. Manning's situation is quite similar to this one, except that he made the 'correct' choice.

Malor, there's a small difference between disobeying orders to reveal systematic cruelty and corruption, and disobeying orders to NOT kill thousands and thousands of innocent people. I know it's a terrible choice to have to make but maybe you should ask the families of the Jews what they think. I'm sure if Demjanjuk had refused he would have ended up in line with his victims or with a bullet in his head, but that doesn't mean what he did is forgivable. He escorted 28,000 people to their deaths, for no crime greater than having the audacity to exist. Are you telling me that's justified merely because he didn't want to die?

Nevin is correct that soldiers (at least American ones) have an obligation not to follow unlawful orders. I can't imagine actually playing that card in the field, surrounded by your heavily armed brethren who fully intend to complete their mission as instructed but our soldiers still have that right and duty.

I don't think Malor was speaking of justification for participation in killing 28000 Jews, more about legal culpability. As Nevin says generally soldiers have a duty to follow orders except when they are illegal.

Legal by whose definition? I'm pretty sure Germany didn't think killing Jews was illegal at the time and I'm not sure the Nazis were really big on conscientious objectors.

LobsterMobster wrote:

Legal by whose definition?

The same people who write the history. The winners.

OG_slinger wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:

Legal by whose definition?

The same people who write the history. The winners.

This, and Nuremberg/Geneva.

I'm not trying to be an apologist for war criminals, but many Russian prisoners were caught between Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany. There was no such thing in either regime as unlawful orders or conscientious objection. Stalin regularly ordered his troops to fire upon their own comrades if they retreated or tried to surrender. He had high ranking officers shot for failure, and even sent his own daughter into the gulag because her husband was captured. Life was brutish and short for most Russian soldiers, so the only thing you could reasonably do was try and survive the madness.

That being said, it's one thing to be a guard who only does what he has to do to survive, and being nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible" because of your sadism.

jdzappa wrote:

I'm not trying to be an apologist for war criminals, but many Russian prisoners were caught between Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany. There was no such thing in either regime as unlawful orders or conscientious objection. Stalin regularly ordered his troops to fire upon their own comrades if they retreated or tried to surrender. He had high ranking officers shot for failure, and even sent his own daughter into the gulag because her husband was captured. Life was brutish and short for most Russian soldiers, so the only thing you could reasonably do was try and survive the madness.

That being said, it's one thing to be a guard who only does what he has to do to survive, and being nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible" because of your sadism.

I respect that you aren't looking to forgive the criminals here, so I'm sorry if this sounds like I'm picking on you.

I think our culture is too eager to forget that the lesser of two evils is still evil (even if it's the basis of our political system, zing). A Russian war criminal is terrible, a German war criminal is terrible, but a single soldier who picks one is not absolved of guilt due to the other.

This is why we have a judicial system. It's not like Demjanjuk's sentence was decreed by a king or by God. There is a system in place for this, one that can determine guilt or innocence, and can sentence a man to death or declare that he has already served his time. 5 years was determined to be the fair sentence. I happen to think it's too lenient, but let us remember that it could have been lighter, too. He's been judged and it's been determined that he has done enough wrong that there is a debt to be paid.

So, the person in question happens to be a Ukrainian conscript who lived under brutal Soviet rule before being captured by Nazi Germany, a regime which treated Soviet POWs extraordinarily badly. He was made to choose between committing mass murder or his own death, with the penalty for mass murder being imprisonment for what is probably the remainder of his life. This, I believe, gives him the rare distinction of being screwed over by all three major sides of World War II's European component.

4xis.black wrote:

So, the person in question happens to be a Ukrainian conscript who lived under brutal Soviet rule before being captured by Nazi Germany, a regime which treated Soviet POWs extraordinarily badly. He was made to choose between committing mass murder or his own death, with the penalty for mass murder being imprisonment for what is probably the remainder of his life. This, I believe, gives him the rare distinction of being screwed over by all three major sides of World War II's European component.

Exactly. And I think it's easy for people in Western democracies to say "well, just ignore orders then" when people who were raised in totalitarian systems have no true concept of war crimes or illegal orders. I have more sympathy for a Russian conscript in this situation than I do for the American "kill team" in Afghanistan who were raised in a democracy and trained in the military to know right from wrong.

jdzappa wrote:
4xis.black wrote:

So, the person in question happens to be a Ukrainian conscript who lived under brutal Soviet rule before being captured by Nazi Germany, a regime which treated Soviet POWs extraordinarily badly. He was made to choose between committing mass murder or his own death, with the penalty for mass murder being imprisonment for what is probably the remainder of his life. This, I believe, gives him the rare distinction of being screwed over by all three major sides of World War II's European component.

Exactly. And I think it's easy for people in Western democracies to say "well, just ignore orders then" when people who were raised in totalitarian systems have no true concept of war crimes or illegal orders. I have more sympathy for a Russian conscript in this situation than I do for the American "kill team" in Afghanistan who were raised in a democracy and trained in the military to know right from wrong.

And this was probably taken into account. This is why he didn't get 500 years or a death sentence.

LobsterMobster wrote:

And this was probably taken into account. This is why he didn't get 500 years or a death sentence.

He's 91, Lobster. He'll very likely be dead before the end of his sentence.

OG_slinger wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:

And this was probably taken into account. This is why he didn't get 500 years or a death sentence.

He's 91, Lobster. He'll very likely be dead before the end of his sentence.

Yep. But also he might not be. I don't think they're supposed to take age into account. Otherwise, hell, short sentences for everyone. We've all got to die some day.

From the article:

The trial began in November 2009 and has attracted worldwide media attention. Hearings were limited to two sessions of 90 minutes a day because Demjanjuk suffers from an incurable bone-marrow disease and back pain.

He followed the hearings on a hospital bed, usually wearing a blue baseball cap and sunglasses. When delivering the verdict, the judges made him face them sitting in a wheel chair.

He's been in jail for two years because of this trial and this is on top of him serving seven years on death row in Israel for the same crime (a sentence which was overturned by Israel's top court because there was reasonable doubt he served at Treblinka).

Whatever his role may or may not have been he's already served his time.

OG_slinger wrote:

Whatever his role may or may not have been he's already served his time.

That's your opinion and as someone with no legal training or access to the evidence, you are entitled to it.

You mean the evidence that the highest court in Israel found lacking enough to overturn his death sentence?

The German court couldn't prove that he personally murdered people specifically identified by the court. Instead they simply reasoned that because Demjankjuk was present at the camp, he was guilty of being an accomplice to the crimes.

As for him having no choice but to be a guard, the German court bought the argument that because a handful of Russian POWs being trained as guards fled captivity that Demjankjuk had a real choice in the matter. That argument conveniently overlooks the fact that about 3.5 million Russian POWs--60% of all Russians soldiers captured--were killed by the Germans.

And in the most recent trial he's been found guilty. You really want to play that card, Slinger?

He was convicted only after the German court lowered their standards. Since the Nuremberg Trials prosecutors have had to show that war crime defendants were guilty of killing specific people. All they could show this time was that Demjankjuk was a guard when the specifically named people were killed. That's it. There was no evidence presented of him personally killing anyone. (Now that this precedent of not actually showing any proof of guilt has been set, the German Nazi war crime prosecutors are moving forward with other similar cases.)

And speaking of evidence, it looks like the AP uncovered an 1985 FBI report that Demjankjuk's Nazi ID card--a key piece of evidence in the trial--was forgery created by the Soviets because he was a known anti-communist. That ID card was the reason Demjankjuk lost his US citizenship in 1986 and became stateless (and why he's been extradited from country to country for various trials ever since then).

Either way, his conviction hasn't been finalized as an appeal has been granted. Given Demjankjuk's age and health he's extremely likely to be dead before his appeal works it's way through the German courts.

You're right, Slinger, he didn't personally kill anyone. No one's ever died from a bullet either; it's the bleeding and internal trauma that gets you. Now I'm sorry that you disapprove of the German court's standards but Germany doesn't. You can send him a letter and tell him that you think he's innocent and I'm sure it'll really comfort him in his final days (he can get mail in prison, right?).

Maybe I'm a bit biased about this but how I see it, he stood by and watched 28,000 innocent people get systematically murdered, and I don't want to lean on this too much but I've got some blood in this fight. I hope you'll forgive me if I don't have much sympathy for the people who kept the death camps running. So yeah, maybe there are some irregularities here and maybe this guy didn't put a gun to anyone's head, but don't act like he's some innocent soldier who was just doing his job. Five years with a quiet death of old age is a holiday compared to what he not only allowed to happen, but took up arms to protect.

Ultimately it doesn't matter what you or I think. In your case, that sucks for him. In my case, he's lucky. Let's leave it at that.

For the claim, 5 years is ridiculous. For the situation he was in... I just do not know.
Probably most ppl between 80 and 90 years, that lived and worked in Germany should be
put into prison then. Either you cooperate, or you get shot or put in the camp.....

If he willingly herded the ppl in that camp to their gas chambers, then start pulling out his toe nails
and entrails, slowly.