It’s ironic.

In the end it’s the Germans who will make the deportation of accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk a reality. Demjanjuk’s case has been in and out of the headlines for the past 30 years, ever since the US Department of Justice began its efforts to strip him of his US citizenship and deport him in the 1970s. The world has changed dramatically since then. The Soviet Union no longer exists, Ukraine, his native country, is now independent, and the rest of eastern Europe has largely joined the free world. But somehow Demjanjuk, albeit with one detour to Israel to stand trial for crimes against humanity, has managed to remain in his comfortable suburban Cleveland home with his family. Last year, after decades of litigation at all levels of the US judicial system, the US Supreme Court refused to hear Demjanjuk’s deportation appeal, effectively putting its stamp of approval on the government’s decision to expel him from the US.


But there was a problem. Ukraine refused to accept him. Nor would any other country. Since Demjanjuk had nowhere to go, it looked like he would quietly live out his final years in the US as an “unremovable alien”.

Enter Germany. A prosecutor in Munich has indicted Demjanjuk for 29,000 counts of murder based on his alleged service at the Sobibor Death Camp in Poland during the Holocaust and sought his extradition. The media initially reported that Germany faced a daunting extradition battle which could take months, if not years, further delaying the removal of Demjanjuk who turns 89 today.

But extradition is not necessary. Since the U.S. holds a valid deportation order Germany need only issue “travel documents” to the US indicating they will accept him as a deportee, a routine procedure in most deportation cases. Those documents were issued a few days ago and Mr. Demjanjuk’s removal is now scheduled for Sunday, April 5. His lawyers have filed an emergency request to stay his deportation with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement claiming he is too frail and weak to travel to Germany.

His alleged poor health is certainly a pity. But personally I am much more moved by the frailty, weakness, and suffering of the innocent Jews who were gassed and burned in the death camps at which Demjanjuk allegedly served.