Holocaust Survivors Shout 'Bravo 3/8' Upon Demjanjuk Conviction With AM-Demjanjuk, Bjt
Apr. 25, 1988
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Holocaust survivors hugged each other and shouted ''Bravo, bravo 3/8'' when an Israel judge on Monday sentenced retired Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk to death for Nazi war crimes.
Other Israelis, however, said they were uncomfortable with the imposition of the death penalty.
In the Cleveland area, where the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk lived for more than 30 years before his 1986 extradition to Israel, the sentence increased the grief and anger of the local Ukrainian community. Ukrainian-Americ ans there prayed and raised money for the man they believe to be innocent.
When Judge Zvi Tal, whose parents were killed in the Holocaust, announced the sentence, dozens of courtroom spectators jumped to their feet shouting ''Bravo, bravo 3/8'' and ''Death, death 3/8'' and singing ''The people of Israel live.''
But Ephraim Zuroff, head of the Israeli branch of the Simon Wiesenthal center, told Israel radio that while he understood the emotional outburst, it was ''totally uncalled for and just lends credence to ... (defense claims) that someone like Demjanjuk can't get a fair trial in Israel.''
The center collects and provides to authorities information on suspected Nazi war criminals.
Some survivors wept with emotion as the sentence was announced.
''The only justice will be to give him to the survivors and let them finish him off piece by piece,'' said Frances Jason of Los Angeles, who survived the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
''A thousand death (penalties) cannot compensate for what happened, but at least we have passed judgment on one of the angels of death,'' said Yosef Czarny, a survivor of Treblinka death camp, where 850,000 Jews were killed in 1942-43.
The court last week convicted Demjanjuk, 68, of being ''Ivan the Terrible,'' a sadistic guard at Treblinka who operated gas chambers and tortured inmates before sending them to their deaths.
About 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. A stated goal of Israel, which was founded after the Nazi slayings, is to bring Adolf Hitler's henchmen to justice.
U.S. industrialist Armand Hammer, who aided Israel in obtaining evidence that helped lead to Demjanjuk's conviction, told a news conference in Beijing Monday before the sentence was announced ''there's no question in my mind ... (that Demjanjuk) is guilty.''
Hammer, chairman of Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum, was in China to sign a new joint venture agreement. He helped Israel obtain a Nazi identification card that purportedly was issued to Demjanjuk as a camp guard.
Demjanjuk's son-in-law, Ed Nishnic of Cleveland, told a news conference in Toronto that Demjanjuk was sentenced to death because Jews are haunted by memories of the Holocaust and desperate to punish those guilty of war crimes.
''But we believe there is doubt ... (Demjanjuk) is Ivan the Terrible,'' said Nishnic. ''He's been falsely convicted. The real Ivan the Terrible does not have our sympathy or our support, he should be sentenced to death.''
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told Israel army radio, ''If he (Demjanjuk) was a Nazi ... who killed thousands of people, I have no problems with the severity of the punishment.''
But Chaim Dasberg, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, said many Israelis feel uncomfortable with the death penalty even if they believe it is the correct punishment for Nazi war criminals.
Dasberg said he himself opposed the death penalty ''for several reasons, among them humanitarian ones.''
''But this goes beyond that. There are criminals and there are criminals,'' he said.
The Rev. John Bruchok of St. Mary's Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Lorain, Ohio, said Monday, ''It's a travesty of justice.''
Bruchok met Demjanjuk and his family shortly before Demjanjuk was sent to Israel to stand trial.
The priest said, ''I saw his face. I saw the face of a gentle man who was scared. An innocent man is being executed.''
The Rev. John Nakonachny, a priest at St. Vladimir's Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Parma, the Demjanjuk family parish, said, ''It has been the unanimous opinion of this parish that Demjanjuk is innocent. That has been the opinion since the beginning.''
Demjanjuk, a retired Ohio autoworker, lived in the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills.
After he was convicted, Jewish organizations in Akron, about 40 miles south of Cleveland, asked for police protection because callers were threatening local Jews.
Mary Dackiewicz, who operates the John Demjanjuk Defense Fund, said that after the sentencing Monday, she had received many telephone calls.
''The phone calls are from people who have been totally outraged at what happened over there,'' she said.
Edgar Bronfman of Montreal, World Jewish Congress president, said he is not a believer in capital punishment, ''but for Holocaust criminals such as Demjanjuk, I would be hard pressed not to impose the death sentence.''