The story of the lengthiest and most bizarre war crimes case to arise out of World War II will be the subject of the annual Holocaust lecture at Ithaca College on Monday, Oct. 10. Legal scholar and author Lawrence Douglas will present “John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Holocaust Trial” at 7:30 p.m. in Textor 101. His talk is free and open to the public.
John Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian citizen who had served in the Soviet Army before being captured by the Germans during World War II. He immigrated to the United States and worked at an auto plant in Cleveland after the war, and in 1975 he was accused of having been “Ivan the Terrible,” a notorious guard at the Treblinka death camp in Poland.
He was ultimately tried four times: twice in the United States on immigration charges; once in Israel, in one of the most notorious cases of mistaken identity in legal history; and finally in Germany, where a Munich court convicted him in 2011 on 28,060 counts of accessory to murder for having served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp. He was sentenced to five years in prison, and died 2012.
A law professor at Amherst College, Douglas covered Demjanjuk’s Munich trial for “Harper’s Magazine,” and his recently published book, “The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial,” builds on that reporting to show the historic importance of the enormous effort to bring Demjanjuk to justice.
Douglas is currently working on two projects: a book tentatively titled “A Jurisprudence of Atrocity,” which aims to offer an understanding of law’s response to the worse human rights violations; and a series of articles on the proceedings against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, before the Guantanamo military commission.