Author’s Note: The crimes for which John Demjanjuk stand accused occurred at Sobibor and NOT Treblinka as earlier stated. The number of deaths is approximately 29,000, not 850,000. I apologize to my readers for the error.
How long is long enough? How sick is too sick? How old is too old?
If John Demjanjuk was indeed the man responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews at Sobibor during World War II and the Nazi occupation of Poland, how long is too long to prosecute him for his crimes? Is he really too sick to be deported and tried? Is he just an old man who should be allowed to live out his live in the relative peace and safety of his adopted Ohio home?
On the day after hearing of Pope Benedict’s address at Yad Vashem, it was interesting to read the news that Mr Demjanjuk had in fact finally been deported and had arrived in Germany to stand trial. A German Pope in Israel, a Ukrainian-former American in Germany—both with ties back to the atrocities of the Nazi regime.
So how long is too long? The victims of Sobibor, estimated at close to 29,000 people, are still dead. How long is too long for them to be dead? How long is too long for their family lines to no longer walk this planet? How long was too long for the young, the old, the weak, the healthy, and the innocent to be slowly killed by the very air they breathed?
How sick were some of these victims, perhaps killed because they could no longer work? What mercy was shown any of these in their infirmity?
How old was the oldest? How young the youngest babe in arms to be killed?
Mr Demjanjuk claims his deportation and trial at his age and in his health will amount to torture. He asks for mercy in light of his condition. Yet if he was the man he is accused of being, he showed no mercy to those who had done nothing to deserve their fate.
I define mercy as not receiving what we deserve for what we have done. (It is a slight opposite of grace, which is receiving what we do not deserve despite what we have done.)
Mercy for John Demjanjuk? It’s not my call. However, I fully support his deportation to stand trial. The time for mercy is not now before a trial. The time for mercy, if at all in this case, is if and when he is convicted. Let the wheels of justice turn—even the wheels of German justice. If he is innocent, I hope he receives a fair trial and is exonerated. If he is guilty, it is likely the weight of 29,000 souls has been on his shoulders for the past 66 years of his 89 years of life. It will be for the court to decide whether mercy should be extended to this man who has been hunted and haunted for so many years.