JERUSALEM — A Holocaust expert, testifying Tuesday at the war crimes trial of retired U.S. auto worker John Demjanjuk, said he has found no evidence to support rumors that a Nazi guard known as "Ivan the Terrible" was killed in a 1943 uprising by inmates of the Treblinka death camp.
Israel contends that Demjanjuk was "Ivan the Terrible." The Ukrainian-born former resident of Cleveland, Ohio, insists he is a victim of mistaken identity.
Yitzhak Arad, director of Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, testified before a packed courtroom on the second day of Demjanjuk's trial: "I have scoured every document. I have never come across anyone who said 'I either killed or saw 'Ivan the Terrible' killed.' "
Legal experts say the key issue in the trial is whether Treblinka survivors and the state of Israel can prove more than 40 years after World War II that Demjanjuk was the guard called "Ivan."
Demjanjuk, 66, who denies he was ever in Treblinka, listened impassively as Arad, the first witness called by the prosecution, grimly recounted the horrors of the extermination camps set up by Hitler's Nazi Germany in World War II.
Yoram Sheftel, an Israeli member of Demjanjuk's defense team, objected to Arad's testimony. He accused the prosecution of trying to turn the case into a "showcase trial similar to the showcase trials in Russia" during the rule of Josef Stalin.
Judge Dov Levin immediately reprimanded the defense for making that comparison and allowed Arad to continue.
Arad used a map and a chart depicting the Nazi chain of command to explain how Germans systematically murdered about 6 million Jews during the war.
He focused on conditions in death camps in Nazi-occupied Poland, including Sobivor, Belzitz and Treblinka.
Demjanjuk, who was stripped of his American citizenship in 1981 and extradited to Israel last February, is accused of running the gas chambers in 1942 and 1943 at Treblinka, a death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland where some 900,000 people died.