Jewish Groups Urge Justice Department to Keep Demjanjuk Out
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Jewish groups and the former congresswoman who wrote the law banning Nazi war criminals from the United States received a polite reception, but no promises from the Justice Department on Thursday as they urged that John Demjanjuk be kept out of the country.
At the same time, the department pressed the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati anew to block a three-judge panel’s decision allowing the retired Cleveland auto worker to return to the United States.
Demjanjuk, 73, who had been deported to Israel to stand trial as a Nazi war criminal, could be freed from a Tel Aviv prison and deported by Israel as early as Friday.
″It appears that Demjanjuk’s release from Israeli custody is imminent,″ Patty Merkamp Stemler, chief of the criminal division’s appellate section, wrote in seeking the appeals court’s intervention.
The Israeli Supreme Court acquitted him of being the notorious ″Ivan the Terrible″ at the Treblinka concentration camp, but Israeli and U.S. courts found he was a Nazi guard at other camps.
Demjanjuk said he is a victim of mistaken identity and denies being a death camp guard.
A delegation, led by New York City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman, met with Solicitor General Drew S. Days III, to present legal arguments as to why the Justice Department should try to block the decision by the court in Cincinnati before Demjanjuk returns to the United States.
Attorney General Janet Reno greeted the group, but did not stay for the discussions.
″We do not want the United States of America to become a sanctuary for people who engaged in Nazi war crimes,″ said Holtzman, who while in Congress wrote the legislation that bars from the United States aliens who assisted in Nazi persecution.
Days said in a statement that the discussion was helpful and that he would take their legal arguments into consideration.
Holtzman was accompanied by representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, the Orthodox Union, the World Jewish Congress, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (Reform), the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and United Synagogue of the Conservative Movement and the American Jewish Congress.
Meawnhile in Steubenville, Ohio, two local lawmakers asked President Clinton by telegram to provide protection for Demjanjuk.
State Rep. Jerry Krupinski and his son, Jefferson County Commissioner Scott Krupinski, said they were concerned about the safety of Demjanjuk and his longtime advocate, Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, who went to Israel in hopes of escorting Demjanjuk back to this country.
″Throughout some of our saddest times in history, America has turned her back on her own,″ Scott Krupinski said. ″To let that happen here again would be a great atrocity unconscionable to any thinking American.″
Meanwhile, two more Democratic members of the New York congressional delegation - Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel - made separate appeals to the government to keep Demjanjuk out.
The Justice Department contends that because two federal judges have found that Demjanjuk served at Trawniki, a Nazi training facility for death camp guards, he should not be allowed to return to this country.
Demjanjuk’s U.S. citizenship was stripped in 1981 for lying about his alleged Nazi past on immigration papers. His native Ukraine has said it might open a war crimes investigation against him should he seek asylum there.