John (Ivan) Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian national who was accused of being “Ivan the Terrible,” a notorious guard at the Treblinka death camp in Poland, during World War II. As an adult, after the war, he lived in suburban Cleveland. He was the subject of the lengthiest and most bizarre criminal case to arise out of the Holocaust. All told Demjanjuk was tried four times: twice in the United States on immigration charges; once in Israel, in one of the most notorious cases of mistaken identity in legal history; and finally in Germany, where a Munich court convicted him in 2011 of being a guard at a Nazi death camp.
Demjanjuk was tried in Israel and convicted on the charges of crimes against humanity and crimes against the Jewish people, but the Israeli Supreme Court later threw out the verdict on the basis that newly-found documents from Russia, available after the collapse of the Soviet Union, did not provide sufficient proof that Demjanjuk had served as a guard at Treblinka. Demjanjuk was later tried on Germany for being a guard at another death camp, Sobibor. In May, 2011, he was convicted on the charge of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder, and sentenced to five years in prison, but he died in March, 2012, before his appeals had been exhausted, and so did not serve a prison term.
Lawrence Douglas, the James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence & Social Thought at Amherst College, covered Demjanjuk’s Munich trial for Harper’s and his recently published book, The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial, builds on that reportage to show the historic importance of the enormous effort to bring Demjanjuk to justice.
Review in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/books/review/the-right-wrong-man-by-lawrence-douglas.html
Interview on New England Public Radio: http://nepr.net/news/2012/04/06/lawrence-douglas-case-john-demjanjuk/