Judge Dalia Dorner, who sat on the Jerusalem District Court panel that convicted John Demjanjuk of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1988, a ruling that was later overturned, is still convinced the verdict was just.
"I believe without a shadow of a doubt that he was ‘Ivan the Terrible’," she told Ynet on Saturday. "But I still support the Supreme Court verdict that ruled he could not be convicted due to reasonable doubt."
Earlier on Saturday, German police said 91-year-old Demjanjuk, who was convicted last year of serving as a Nazi death camp guard, has died at a home for the elderly in southern Germany.
"The man who was executed as ‘Ivan the Terrible’ does not resemble Demjanjuk in any way, who was identified by 11 Holocaust survivors as Ivan the Terrible, and that is why I personally believe he was in fact that person," she said.
"The most important thing is that these terrible times are on the public agenda again and they must be remembered, so such things never happen to us again."
In 1986, Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel from the US. His 1987 trial revolved around the question whether he was in fact ‘Ivan the Terrible.’ Prosecutors presented as evidence Demjanjuk’s alleged SS certificate. Demjanjuk argued his was a case of mistaken identity and claimed that he was never in Treblinka. He said he was a guard at the Sobibor death camp and claimed that the real Ivan the Terrible was murdered in 1943.
The Jerusalem District Court nevertheless found him guilty of all the charges against him and sentenced him to death in 1988.
However, after a successful appeal the Supreme Court exonerated Demjanjuk over reasonable doubt in 1993. KGB documents found in Soviet archives indicated that ‘Ivan the Terrible’ was not Demjanjuk.
"During the trial Demjanjuk denied being Ivan the Terrible," Dorner said. "All we know is that as a guard he behaved like Ivan the Terrible."
Israel trial was a blood libel’
Meanwhile, Demjanjuk’s former Israeli attorney Yoram Sheftel claims that his client’s trial was based on a "blood libel".
"The State of Israel tried Demjanjuk in one of the most disgraceful show trials a democracy has ever seen," he said. "At the end of the trial he was sentenced to death for single handedly strangling 900,000 Jews in Treblinka despite the current consensus, as reflected by the German verdict, that Demjanjuk never set foot in Treblinka."
Sheftel claims that the 1987 Jerusalem District Court panel disregarded exculpatory evidence out of determination to execute Demjanjuk. "The whole trial was a blood libel, the prosecutors knew all along that he wasn’t ‘Ivan the Terrible’ ever since 1979."
‘My father of a victim of brutality’
Demjanjuk’s son said Saturday that his father "fell asleep with the Lord as a victim and survivor of Soviet and German brutality since childhood."
"He loved life, family and humanity. History will show Germany used him as a scapegoat to blame helpless Ukrainian POWs for the deeds of Nazi Germans."
French Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld said: "The world without Demjanjuk is better than the world with him."