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Report Backs Demjanjuk's Denial That He Was Nazi War Criminal

March 20, 1986|From Times Wire Services

TEL AVIV — A report surfaced Wednesday in Israel supporting John Demjanjuk's denial that he was the brutal Nazi death camp guard dubbed "Ivan the Terrible," but the country's Holocaust memorial center quickly challenged its accuracy.

An interview conducted as part of a university research project with a survivor of the Treblinka extermination camp quoted the survivor as saying that Ivan was killed in a prisoner revolt at the camp Aug. 2, 1943, Israel radio said.

It reported that the material, found in the archives of Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv, dated back to the 1960s. The survivor of the camp, Avraham Goldfarb, died last year.

Moved to New Camp

"According to our documents, Ivan the Terrible was not in the camp at the time (of the revolt)," a spokesman for the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial told reporters. "He had been transferred to the Sobidor camp."

Shmuel Krakowski, the head of the archives at Yad Vashem, questioned the authenticity of Goldfarb's account.

"It's only a rumor that Goldfarb heard. It's not based on reality and I suggest that it not be taken seriously," he said in an interview with Associated Press.

Demjanjuk, 65, a retired auto worker from Cleveland, was stripped of his U.S. citizenship and extradited to Israel in February to stand trial on suspicion he killed thousands of Jews at Treblinka, one of six death camps in Poland, during World War II.

His trial would be the first in Israel of a suspected Nazi war criminal since Adolf Eichmann, who helped organize the extermination of six million Jews, was tried and executed in 1962.

KGB Plot Claimed

Goldfarb's story contradicts the testimony of 12 other survivors who identified Demjanjuk as the operator of the Treblinka gas chambers in which 900,000 Jews were killed. Survivors said he often beat prisoners as they were led to their death.

Israeli radio quoted from Goldfarb's account of the revolt, "We tore down the fence. Another group ran to the gas chambers and killed Ivan the Terrible and his comrade and threw them into the fire."

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