It is the end of long and bitter legal battle: The alleged Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk has finally landed in Germany after months of fighting his deportation from the US. The 89-year-old landed at Munich airport on Tuesday morning. He could now face the last big Nazi trial in Germany.
The aircraft taxied directly into the Lufthansa hangar at 9.15 a.m. local time accompanied by police cars and ambulances. Demjanjuk was brought to the remand prison at Stadelheim in Munich, where he is to undergo a medical examination. An investigating judge will formally issue him with an arrest warrant later on Tuesday.
One of his German lawyers, Günther Maull, told the Associated Press on Monday that a doctor would determine whether Demjanjuk should stay in Stadelheim or be sent to a hospital. "If he is sick they first have to try to cure him. If he is incurably sick they have to find a place for him to live."
Demjanjuk finally lost his battle to avoid deportation from the US on Monday afternoon when an ambulance arrived at his home in Cleveland, Ohio and brought him to the airport. The state prosecutor in Munich had issued a warrant for his arrest in March, accusing him of having been an accessory to the murder of 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Demjanjuk claims he was a Red Army soldier captured by the Nazis and never harmed anyone. However, German prosecutors say they have documents showing that he served as an SS guard at the death camp.
The ambulance was accompanied by three US immigration officials and Demjanjuk's family attempted to shield him from the public view by holding a blanket in front of him as he was carried into the ambulance on a stretcher.
The Ukranian-born Demjanjuk was formally deported at the US immigration office in Cleveland and then flown from Burke Lakefront Airport in a specially chartered aircraft to Germany.
On Monday the 89-year-old suffered another legal defeat when a court in Berlin-Brandenburg rejected his lawyer's attempt to force the Berlin government to withdraw its agreement to accept Demjanjuk in Germany. Demjanjuk has been stateless since the US stripped him of his citizenship in 2002 and the court ruled that a decision on whether he can be allowed to stay in Germany could also be made after his arrival in the country. The court also ruled that it was not up to the German authorities to decide if he was fit to travel.
The deportation case had descended into a bitter legal battle between the Demjanjuk family and the US authorities. His son had claimed that he was too ill and frail to travel and that putting him on trial in Germany would amount to "torture." However, last week the US Supreme Court refused to consider his request to block deportation. An immigration judge in 2005 had ruled that he could be deported to Germany, Poland or Ukraine.
Demjanjuk's bid to avoid deportation became increasingly desperate. Dramatic photos last month showed Demjanjuk in apparent pain as he was removed by immigration officials in an early attempt to deport him. However, the US government then released images of him taken only days earlier that showed him walking unaided to his car.
Charlotte Knobloch, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the ARD television station on Monday that Demjanjuk needs to be brought to trial. "War crimes of the kind Demjanjuk has been accused of do not fall under the statute of limitations," she said. "I hope he receives the punishment he deserves."