Episode 501: John Demjanjuk: The Hunting of a Nazi

Released Friday, 24th July 2020
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On this episode of the Sofa King Podcast, we look at the crazy case of a Cleveland man named John Demjanjuk, and the decades long court battle to prove he was the evil Ivan the Terrible. Ivan the Terrible was a guard at the gas chambers in the Treblenka concentration camp. He was notorious for stabbing the prisoners with a saber, cutting their ears off on their way to a work shift, rape, killing babies, and nailing people’s ears to the walls of the death chamber. If John Demjanjuk was truly Ivan the terrible, he deserved to pay for his crimes. But the battle in various international courts were a roller coaster of evidence. Was he Ivan the Terrible?

What is known about Demjanjuk is that he was born in the Soviet Union in 1920 He survived the Holodomor famine, worked on a state-owned farm, and was finally drafted into the Soviet Army in 1940. While there, he fought in the horrible Battle of Kerch Peninsula where Soviet Casualties were above 570,000 in five months. He was captured and taken as a prisoner of war. However, the Germans used their Soviet POWs in some concentration camps. Many of the Soviet prisoners hated the Jews so much, that they would become complicit in the final solution.

At the end of the war, he was bounced around a bit, got married, and settled in Ohio. He became an American citizen, had four children, and worked at a Ford Plant. The American Dream. But, in 1975, a reporter brought evidence to a US Senator, and the court saga was on! His American citizenship was stripped, and he was extradited to Israel to stand trial for crimes against humanity. Through a very emotional case filled with dozens of eyewitness horror stories, Demjanjuk was found guilty and given the death penalty. But, there was an appeal.

And then an appeal to an appeal, and a crazy bunch of court madness that took him Israel back to the US and then Germany to stand a second trial. Janet Reno even got involved. Once the Soviet Union Collapsed, thousands of records that may pertain to his case were declassified as the KGB vanished. And that brought a whole new batch of evidence.

So, what crimes was he finally convicted of by Germany? How did he only get five years jail time? How did he die before he could ever serve his sentence? What were the full crimes of the notorious Ivan the Terrible? How bad was Treblinka? Who else might have been Ivan the Terrible if it wasn’t Demjanjuk, and what ever happened to that guy?

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Episode Details

1h 46m 34s

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