WITNESS: Documents showing Demjanjuk was Nazi death camp guard appear to be authentic

Wednesday, May 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Documents intended to prove a retired autoworker served as a Nazi death camp guard appear to be authentic, a government witness testified Wednesday.

Larry Stewart, Secret Service laboratory director, testified for the government in its second attempt to strip John Demjanjuk of his U.S. citizenship.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul R. Matia is hearing the case without a jury.

The government alleges the documents, which include Nazi-issued identification cards, prove the Ukrainian-born man helped the Nazis persecute European Jews during World War II. The documents also include off-duty passes and a disciplinary report.

Demjanjuk, now 81, has denied that he ever helped the Nazis.

The trial comes 20 years after Demjanjuk first lost his citizenship after being accused of being a particularly brutal guard at the Treblinka death camp who had the nickname ``Ivan the Terrible.'' That case led to a death sentence in Israel, but then Israel's Supreme Court acquitted him in 1993.

The new case against him is not about ``Ivan the Terrible.'' It accuses Demjanjuk of serving as a guard at Nazi camps other than Treblinka.

Stewart testified that the documents placing Demjanjuk at various Nazi camps are on paper that is consistent with materials from the 1940s. He added that there was no evidence of attempts to alter the papers with coffee, tea or chemicals to make them appear old.

``I tested for that,'' Stewart said.

He also testified that watermarks and ink on documents he reviewed in Washington, Moscow and Berlin were consistent with other wartime documents.

Demjanjuk's attorneys argue that the case involves mistaken identity and the documents _ regardless of whether they are authentic _ refer to a different Demjanjuk.

Demjanjuk attorney Michael Tigar has denounced the proceeding as a ``trial by archive'' of World War II-era documents.

Many of the same documents were the focus of Demjanjuk's 1981 trial, when his citizenship was revoked but later restored on appeal.

This time, the Justice Department intends to show that Demjanjuk was a guard at forced labor camps primarily in Nazi-occupied Poland.

The government's new case is based partly on documents that became available after the demise of the Soviet Union and that also helped Demjanjuk escape a death sentence in Israel. Prosecutors said Tuesday they would present an identification card, work rosters and other documents to prove Demjanjuk lied about his past to get into the United States.

Justice Department attorney Edward Stutman said evidence would focus on documents that include references to a man with the same birth date, birthplace and physical description, including a scar matching Demjanjuk's.

``It is as clear as the scar on the defendant's back,'' Stutman said.

The defense says Demjanjuk served in a Soviet Army artillery unit during the war, was captured in 1942 and remained in German prisoner of war camps.

It also says the height and dental work listed on the government's documents don't match Demjanjuk's, and that another Ukrainian, possibly a cousin also named Ivan Demjanjuk, could have been the Nazi guard.

Demjanjuk changed his name from Ivan to John when he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1958 and moved into Cleveland's Ukrainian community.