Accused Nazi guard seen fit to stay in German jail

MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - Accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk is fit to stay in jail, German prosecutors said Wednesday after the 89-year-old arrived from the United States to face charges he helped kill 29,000 Jews in 1943.

Demjanjuk, who has been held in a jail in southern Germany since Tuesday, tops the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's list of its 10 most-wanted suspected war criminals and could become the focus of what is likely to be Germany's last major Nazi trial.

"He got through the night well and the doctor thinks he is fit to stay in jail," state prosecutor Anton Winkler said.

Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk arrived from the United States on Tuesday after a series of legal attempts by his family to stop his deportation to Germany due to health reasons.

His family says he suffers from spinal problems, kidney failure and anaemia.

Munich prosecutors want him tried for assisting in murders at Sobibor extermination camp, in what is now Poland, and plan to charge him in a few weeks. After that, German officials will decide whether the former auto worker is fit to stand trial.

Demjanjuk denies any role in the Holocaust.

The case has sparked little public debate in Germany, indicating that 60 years after World War Two and the Holocaust, many Germans want to draw a line under the past.

None of Germany's leading politicians have commented on the deportation, which was, however, welcomed by Jewish groups.

Demjanjuk has said he was drafted into the Russian army in 1941, became a German prisoner of war a year later and served at German prison camps until 1944. He immigrated to the United States in 1951 and became a naturalized citizen in 1958.

In 1981, he was stripped of his U.S. citizenship and extradited to Israel, where he was sentenced to death in 1988 after Holocaust survivors said he was the notorious guard "Ivan the Terrible" at the Treblinka camp, where 870,000 people died.

Israel's Supreme Court later overturned his conviction when new evidence showed another man was likely the Treblinka guard.

The United States restored Demjanjuk's citizenship in 1998, but the Justice Department refiled a case against him in 1999, arguing he had worked as a guard at three other death camps. His citizenship was stripped from him again in 2002.

(Reporting by Jens Hack; Writing by Kerstin Gehmlich)

Article Published: 13/05/2009