German prosecutors demanded a six-year jail term Tuesday for John Demjanjuk, accused of helping kill 27,900 Jews in the Holocaust, at the end of what is likely to be the country’s final war crimes trial.
State prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz told a court in Munich at the end of a 16-month trial that Demjanjuk, 90, was “part of the Nazi machinery” and an accomplice to murdering Jews.
“Anyone with as much guilt as this must be punished — even at such an old age and even 60 years after the crime,” Lutz said in his closing arguments. Prosecutors could have sought a jail term of up to 15 years.
Demjanjuk has denied any role in the Holocaust. He has said he was drafted into the Soviet army in 1941, became a German prisoner of war and served at German prison camps.
Prosecutors accuse Demjanjuk, who was once atop the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of most wanted war criminals, of assisting in killings at the Sobibor death camp, where they say some 250,000 Jews were killed. He denies having worked there.
His family says he was too frail for trial, which he began in November 2009 in a wheelchair and has attended lying down.
Demjanjuk was born in Ukraine and fought in the Red Army before the Nazis captured him and recruited him as a camp guard. He emigrated to the United States in 1951 and became a naturalized citizen in 1958.
Lutz said he based his demand for six years in jail due to the high number of victims. He also said that many other prisoners of war who became guards had managed to escape.
“The defendant could have tried to escape,” he said. He added Demjanjuk took part voluntarily and out of conviction in the annihilation of Jews. He said the greater the crime, the more the need to avoid it even if trying to escape would be risky.
Demjanjuk was sentenced to death in Israel in 1988 after Holocaust survivors said he was the notorious guard “Ivan the Terrible” at the Treblinka camp, where 870,000 people died.
Israel’s Supreme Court later overturned his conviction when new evidence showed another man was likely the Treblinka guard.