BBC News Europe.  A German court has found John Demjanjuk guilty of helping to murder more than 28,000 Jews at a Nazi death camp in World War II.

He was sentenced to five years in prison, one year less than prosecutors had asked for, but will be released - reportedly pending an appeal.

Prosecutors said the Ukraine-born Demjanjuk, 91, was a guard at Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943.

He denied serving as a guard, saying he was a prisoner of war and a victim too.

Lawyers for Demjanjuk have said they will appeal against the conviction.

"The court is convinced that the defendant... served as a guard at Sobibor from 27 March 1943 to mid-September 1943," presiding Judge Ralph Alt said.

"As guard he took part in the murder of at least 28,000 people," he said.

An estimated 250,000 people died in the gas chambers at Sobibor. Demjanjuk was convicted of being an accessory to the murder of the 28,060 people who were killed there while he was a guard.

It is not clear whether Demjanjuk, whose family says he is very ill, will get credit for time already served.

He has been in custody since being extradited from the US in 2009.

After the war Demjanjuk lived in the US, where he worked in an Ohio car factory, and became an American citizen.

Born in Ukraine in 1920, Demjanjuk grew up under Soviet rule.

He was a soldier in the Red Army in 1942 when he was captured by the Germans.

Prosecutors had argued he was recruited by the Germans to be an SS camp guard and that by working at a death camp he was a participant in the killings.

No evidence was produced that he committed a specific crime.

It was the first time such a legal argument was made in a German court.

Central to the prosecution's case was an SS identity card indicating Demjanjuk was posted to Sobibor.

The defence cast doubts on the authenticity of the card but court experts said it appeared genuine.

Demjanjuk listened to the verdict sitting in a wheelchair without responding, his eyes covered by dark glasses.

Concerns over his health led to frequent delays in the 18-month trial.

Relatives of some of the people killed at Sobibor said they were satisfied with the verdict.

"It's very emotional - it doesn't happen every day," Rudolf Salomon Cortissos told Associated Press news agency.

His mother was gassed at Sobibor.

Demjanjuk has already spent eight years in detention in Israel.

In the 1980s, an Israeli court identified him as "Ivan the Terrible", a notoriously sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp, and sentenced him to death.

His conviction was overturned after new evidence showed that another Ukrainian was probably responsible.


It was a very poignant end to a long legal process.

John Demjanjuk was leaning back in his wheelchair wearing dark glasses in a corner of the courtroom - as he was for much of the trial - saying absolutely nothing, almost seeming like he was peripheral to it.

The presiding judge stood up and leaned over him and said: "You have the last word." Demjanjuk simply shook his head no.

He was wheeled forward and the judge delivered his guilty verdict to his face.

The relatives of the dead were clearly satisfied with the verdict although for some of them it wasn't the main aim. They wanted a court in Germany to hear the details of the machinery of industrial killing and to hear that history related in the city where the Nazi party was founded.

Stephen Evans
BBC News, Munich




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