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Demjanyuk trial begins

The controversial trial opened in a court in Munich. A lot of opinion-makers, notably in Britain, oppose the hunting down of Nazi war criminals sixty-five years after the events. Demjanyuk, 89, is considered by many to be too old to stand trial.

An Israeli court acquitted Demjanyuk on a technicality. The Munich court may not want to convict an elderly Nazi murderer on flimsy evidence because the precedent would bring dozens of other elderly Nazis to trial.

The court has to decide on two issues. First, jurisdiction: Demjanyuk can only be tried in Germany if he took part in murdering German Jewish citizens, who were a very small part of those annihilated in the Sobibor death camp. Second, Demjanyuk claims that he was forced to take part in the murders, rather than volunteering for them. Unlike Jewish law, civil law generally excuses a murderer who acted under compulsion.

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