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Demjanjuk Confused, Forgetful, His Defense Attorney Declares

December 29, 1987|Reuters

JERUSALEM — The defense for John Demjanjuk, the alleged Nazi war criminal, portrayed him today as confused and forgetful about what he truly did during and after the war.

"The man is not bright, the man is not too clever, the man forgets many, many details about anything you ask him," defense lawyer Yoram Sheftel told reporters outside the courtroom.

Demjanjuk, a 67-year-old former U.S. auto worker accused of being the Nazi death camp guard "Ivan the Terrible," testified for the last time today at the nearly completed 10-month-old trial.

He has denied from the start Israeli charges that he killed 850,000 Jewish prisoners during World War II and has insisted that he is a victim of mistaken identity.

Speaking in his native Ukrainian, Demjanjuk testified that he was easily confused, even when it came to recalling which of two witnesses' testimony he missed last month because of a bad back.

"I can remember what I heard here today, but I won't remember tomorrow," said Demjanjuk, who could face death by hanging if convicted by the three-judge court.

Sheftel said the fact that his client cannot even remember what he did last month helped explain his failure to recall important aspects of his life in 1942 and 1943, when Israel accuses him of torturing prisoners at Treblinka death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

In earlier testimony, Demjanjuk was unable to remember the name of a camp where he said he spent 18 months from the fall of 1942 to spring, 1944, or why he forgot the many months he spent digging peat there.

Summations Jan. 25

Presiding Judge Dov Levin said the court plans to begin hearing summations Jan. 25 whether or not the defense goes ahead with a plan to call two or three more witnesses.

Speaking from the dock, Demjanjuk took issue with a statement by his own defense lawyer in court last month that an old photograph showed him as a policeman for a U.N. relief organization at a postwar displaced-persons camp in Landshut, Germany, in 1946.

Demjanjuk said the photo showed him as a policeman in Feldafing, Germany, in 1951, and he testified that he did not correct the defense lawyer at the time because it was a day when Demjanjuk, plagued by bad health, was absent from court.

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