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Demjanjuk, Accused Nazi Camp Guard, Casts Himself As A Victim Of Hitler

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MUNICH — Retired Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk told a German court Tuesday he was a victim of the Nazis, using his first major statement since his trial began to sharply criticize the country that started World War II for prosecuting him.

Demjanjuk, who turned 90 earlier this month, is standing trial on 27,900 counts of being an accessory to murder on allegations he was a guard at the Sobibor camp in occupied Poland. He denies ever being at any camp, claiming he is the victim of mistaken identity.

"I am again and again an innocent victim of the Germans," he told the court in a statement he signed and that was read aloud by his attorney.

He said that as a prisoner of war the Nazis used him as a slave laborer, while killing millions of his fellow Ukrainians. Since his extradition from the U.S. last May, Demjanjuk has been in a prison near Munich, again "as a German prisoner of war," he said.

The two-page statement signed by Demjanjuk was the first comment of length he has made in court since his trial began Nov. 30.

He said after the war he was unable to return to his homeland, and has now been taken from his family in the United States, calling the trial a "continuation of the injustice" done to him.

"Germany is responsible for the fact that I have lost for good my whole reason to live, my family, my happiness, any future and hope," he said.

After the day's session, an attorney representing the families of victims of the Holocaust who have joined the trial as co-plaintiffs, as allowed under the German system, said the statement shows Demjanjuk is still showing no remorse and lacks understanding.

"The defendant did not say a word about the Nazis' victims," attorney Rolf Kleidermann said.

Demjanjuk could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted for his alleged activities training as a guard in the SS camp Trawniki, then serving at Sobibor.

The prosecution argues that after Demjanjuk, a Soviet Red Army soldier, was captured by the Germans in 1942 he volunteered to serve under the SS as a guard.

Demjanjuk denies ever having served as a guard, saying that he spent most of the rest of the war in Nazi POW camps before joining the so-called Vlasov Army of anti-communist Soviet POWs and others. That army was formed to fight with the Germans against the encroaching Soviets in the final months of the war.

A key piece of the prosecution's evidence in the trial against Demjanjuk is a Nazi ID card that allegedly shows he has served time in Sobibor. His defense, however, maintains the ID card is a fake.

An expert witness testified Tuesday that his analysis of the photograph on the card is that it is "with high probability" Demjanjuk in the picture.

Reinhardt Altmann, a retired expert with Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office, showed the court seven photos of Demjanjuk from various stages of his life, including one from a driver's license, one from his wedding and two from the U.S. visa and citizenship process.

By comparing some 20 characteristics of Demjanjuk from those photos – such as eyebrows, lips and nose – to the Nazi identity card, he testified he had concluded that all the photos very likely showed the same person.

He stressed, however, that he was not qualified to judge whether the photos, provided by Israeli and U.S. archives, are genuine after defense attorney Ulrich Busch suggested they could have been faked.

As in previous sessions, Demjanjuk lay on a hospital bed in the courtroom wearing sunglasses and did not react to the testimony.

The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday.

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Associated Press Writer Juergen Baetz contributed to this report from Berlin.

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