Poland investigating four men for mass killings of Jews

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

WARSAW, Poland -- An Ohio man once accused of being the notorious Nazi death camp guard "Ivan the Terrible" is among four ethnic Ukrainians being investigated for killing Jews during World War II in occupied Poland, prosecutors said Monday.

Two of the other suspects also are U.S. residents.

Polish prosecutors say all four men were trained by the Nazis at the Trawniki training camp. They are believed to have killed a large number of Jews in the Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec camps and during the liquidation of ghettos in Warsaw, Lublin and Bialystok from 1942 to July 1944.

The suspects include 82-year-old John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian refugee living outside Cleveland. The retired auto worker was extradited from the United States to Israel in 1986 to face accusations he was the guard at the Treblinka death camp who earned his nickname for showing exceptional cruelty in killing Jews.

Demjanjuk was convicted and sentenced to death in 1988 but the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that he was not "Ivan the Terrible." The court was concerned that "Ivan the Terrible" was likely someone else, a Ukrainian named Ivan Marchenko.

"Who 'Ivan the Terrible' was is still an open question," said Andrzej Witkowski, a prosecutor with Poland's Institute of National Remembrance. "There are new witnesses and new ways to verify the identity of the man."

Witkowski said from the southeastern city of Lublin that Polish investigators do not have sufficient evidence so far to prove that Demjanjuk was "Ivan the Terrible." But Polish courts are not tied by the Israeli ruling.

The other suspects are two U.S. residents identified only as Bronislaw H. and Jacob R. and another man living in Germany identified as Dymitro S.

Former Polish citizens

The trio are believed to be former Polish citizens of Ukrainian origin. The two U.S. residents were stripped of their American citizenship for concealing their membership in Nazi SS units, Witkowski said.

Polish prosecutors opened their investigation last month and will probably decide whether to press charges and seek the extradition of Demjanjuk and the other men by midyear, he said.

A Demjanjuk spokesman said the Polish investigation constitutes "continued harassment."

"It's shameful, scandalous and a mockery of justice," Ed Nishnic, Demjanjuk's son-in-law, said of Poland's new investigation.

He said Poland has been investigating "Ivan the Terrible" since 1945 and knows his identity is Ivan Marchenko.

Demjanjuk returned to Ohio from Israel but was stripped of his citizenship last year when a federal court ruled he was a Nazi guard, if not "Ivan the Terrible."

Demjanjuk, who maintains he was a prisoner of war, has appealed.

Witkowski said the Polish investigation involves the U.S. Justice Department, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, Israel and Germany.

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