Tonight and tomorrow the news will be filled with heart-rending videotape and photos of a pitifully ill, broken-down old man being forcibly taken from his Cleveland home on a stretcher, in what was to have been the first stage of his removal from this country and extradition to Germany, which journey has now once again been postponed by another last-minute court order. How did John Demjanjuk get to be so old? By living the good life here for over six decades, having faked his identity and fled Europe after his years of dedicated service to the Nazi extermination campaign against the Jews during World War II. Should he ever finally be deported, should he and his family and their white-supremacist and neo-Nazi supporters (a long list of fascist organizations has funded and backed him) ever lose their long legal fight to save him from having to pay for his despicable crimes, he will go on trial in Germany.
There he is charged with 29,000 counts of murder. Twenty-nine thousand.
Me with my nose always in a book, I'm practically a prototypical Jew. A meek, mild-mannered sort. Yet I feel not one ounce of pity for this old man, whose active participation in mass murder is exceedingly well documented despite the continual mishandling of the cases against him.
True, even at 29,000 murders Demujanjuk's crimes are by no means the worst, in that particular genocidal holocaust or in any one of the several others in history, including the genocide of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Middle Passage in which some 20 million Africans died. And true, if he manages to hold off extradition and die, peaceful and content in his own bed, he will be by no means the first to manage this feat. It's not the biggest thing to be concerned about, 64 years later. It does matter, though, I think. He should face justice, or some tiny semblance thereof. He should not die in peace.