Former Soviet Prisoner Meets Inmate Accused Of Nazi Crimes
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Former Soviet prisoner Anatoly Shcharansky greeted accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk with the Hebrew salutation, ″Shalom″ and spoke to him for 10 minutes during a prison tour, a prison spokesman said Friday.
The two men smiled, shook hands and then talked in in English and Russian in Demjanjuk’s cell Thursday, spokesman Shimon Malka told The Associated Press. The meeting came during a tour Shcharansky had requested at the maximum-security Ramle prison near Tel Aviv.
Shcharansky, a Jewish activist who was freed on Feb. 11 after nine years in Soviet prison and labor camps, toured the Israeli prison for 3 1/2 hours, Malka said.
Demjanjuk, extradited from the United States 2 1/2 weeks after Shcharansky arrived here, is accused of being the Nazi guard known as ″Ivan the Terrible″ who operated gas chambers at the Treblinka concentration camp in Poland. Ssome 900,000 Jews were killed there in World War II.
The 65-year-old Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, a retired Ohio autoworker, denies he was ever in Treblinka and says he is a victim of mistaken identity.
Malka said the two men spoke mostly in Russian. Shcharansky, 38, later said Demjanjuk told him ″he is being treated well and is living under good conditions,″ Malka said.
″Demjanjuk looked very surprised by the visit, and told him hesitantly in English, ’If I’m not mistaken, you’re Shcharansky,‴ said Malka, who witnessed the meeting.
″The two men exchanged smiles. Demjanjuk hesitated, but then reached out his hand and they shook hands,″ Malka said.
Shcharansky’s home phone has been recently disconnected and reporters have been unable to contact him for several weeks.
The former Soviet prisoner is scheduled to go to New York and Washington next week for about 10 days, according to Alexander Luntz, a friend and Soviet activist who emigrated to Israel in 1976.
A former computer analyst, Shcharansky spent 12 years trying to emigrate to Israel and was freed in an East-West prisoner swap, cutting short a 13-year sentence on spying charges.
On the prison tour, Shcharansky, who spent 403 days in solitary confinement, also ″insisted we show him a solitary confinement cell,″ Malka said.
″Afterwards he told us ’If my regular cell was this nice I would not have wanted to get out of jail,‴ Malka said.
In a meeting with women prisoners on a lawn, Shcharansky said, ″For six years I never saw one ray of sun. Here I see plenty of sun and that to me is a sign of freedom,″ according to Malka.
″May the next year bring you freedom and liberation,″ Malka quoted Shcharansky as telling the women prisoners.