Alleged Nazi Guard Demjanjuk to Stand Trial

Accused of aiding in death camp slaughter, Demjanjuk fit for trial, say doctors.

PASSAU, Germany July 3, 2009 — -- Alleged Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk has been declared fit to stand trial on charges that he was an accessory to the murder of 29,000 Jews during World War II, German prosecutors announced today.

The 89-year-old Demjanjuk, from Cleveland, was deported to Germany almost two months ago by U.S. immigration authorities.

"The medical tests have been concluded, and we have been given the green light to put John Demjanjuk on trial, Munich state prosecutor Anton Winkler told ABC News.

Upon his arrival in Germany, an ailing Demjanjuk was taken to the medical facility at Munich-Stadelheim prison, where he underwent a thorough physical evaluation and was treated for various health problems.

It wasn't until today, however, that prosecutors were able to announce that Demjanjuk was found fit to stand trial, although with the stipulation that his court appearances not exceed 90 minutes per session.

"We can now follow up on our arrest warrant, which accuses him of being an accessory to the murder of 29,000 Jews and others during World War II at the Sobibor death camp," Winkler said.

Demjanjuk arrived in Germany in May of this year after a legal tug-of-war that began seven years ago.

In 2002, a U.S. judge revoked his U.S. citizenship based on evidence showing he had concealed his service as a guard at a Nazi death camp when he applied to become a U.S. citizen in 1958.

A U.S. immigration judge ruled in 2005 that Demjanjuk could be deported to Germany, Poland or the Ukraine to stand trial, but German prosecutors in Munich issued an arrest warrant for him only in March of this year.

"Our experts from the Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigation had only recently verified the validity of Demjanjuk's identification card, which puts him in the Sobibor camp, a death camp in then Nazi occupied Poland," Winkler explained.

"The identification card is only one of many pieces of evidence against him, but it is an important one. There are also witnesses who will testify that Demjanjuk was a member of the so-called Vlasov Army, a group of Russian volunteers who did the Nazis' dirty work in the death camps in the occupied areas of Eastern Europe. We expect to formally charge him later on this month."

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, a retired U.S. autoworker, has been denying the German prosecutor's charges from day one.

He maintains he was drafted into the Russian army in 1941, and later held by the Germans as a Soviet prisoner of war at German prison camps until 1944.

He says he's innocent of the charges against him, and claims he has never been to the Sobibor camp.

After the war, he found a job as truck driver in southern Germany, where his alleged SS past was never a problem, authorites have said.

He met his wife, Vera, there and the couple had their first child, daughter Lydia. The young family applied for permission to immigrate to America, where they arrived in January 1952.

Demjanjuk was granted U.S. citizenship in 1958. He moved his family to Ohio, where he began working for the Ford Motor Co. The couple had two other children, Irene and John Jr., and the family moved to a small house in the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills, where they still live today.

Demjanjuk was sent to Israel, where he was convicted of being the notorious Nazi guard "Ivan the Terrible" at the Treblinka concentration camp in Poland.

He was found guilty in 1988 of war crimes and crimes against humanity, a conviction that was later overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court when new evidence showed another man was likely the Treblinka guard, allowing Demjanjuk to return to the United States a free man.

Demjanjuk's trial here, which could begin in the fall, will likely be Germany's last major Nazi trial.