As reported by the Associated Press, Germany has charged John Demjanjuk in 29,000 counts of accessory to murder for the time he served at the Sobibor extermination camp in then Nazi-occupied Poland between March and September 1943.
Last Summer, the US rejected Demjanjuk's final appeals of his deportation from the United States -- deported for having lied on his naturalization papers about his Nazi service. The question remained which nation would request Demjanjuk for extradition and for what charges they would try him -- if any. I discussed this situation in an Op-Ed published in the LA Times on Friday June, 13, 2008 and other Tribune newspapers called "The Pariah Loophole." (which was also posted on the Huffington Post).
Germany charging Demjanjuk is significant because it acknowledges that the crimes of the Nazi era did not end at their borders, and that the criminals were not only German but also included those who came to serve the Nazis, including former Soviet citizens such as Demjanjuk.
Charging Demjanjuk with 29,000 separate counts is also a very meaningful way to acknowledge the distinctness of every Jewish life that was extinguished during the time Demjanjuk served at Sobibor.
As this matter proceeds the German charges and trial will put forward the documentary and testimonial evidence regarding Demjanjuk's participation as an experienced camp guard in the murders.
However, the German charges also make clear that at an extermination camp like Sobibor whose only purpose was the murder of Jewish men, women and children, camp guards such as Demjanjuk were full participants, partners in the crimes and accessory to the murders.
There is no way to predict whether justice will be done, but we can say that by virtue of these charges, it is being pursued.