THE TRIAL OF IVAN THE TERRIBLE: State of Israel V. John Demjanjuk by Tom Teicholz

THE TRIAL OF IVAN THE TERRIBLE: State of Israel V. John Demjanjuk

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An N.Y.C. attorney chronicles the yearlong trial of quiet family man and accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk. More than 40 years after some Treblinka survivors thought the sadistic guard known as Ivan ""Grozny"" (the Terrible) had been killed in an inmate uprising, Demjanjuk sat accused of being that man. Following one of the most celebrated war trials since that of Adolph Eichmann in 1961, the Cleveland auto-worker was sentenced to death in 1988. Demjanjuk's vague alibi (that he had been interned for 18 months in a POW camp whose name and other particulars he couldn't immediately recall), a Nazi identification card of disputed authenticity, and five doddering Treblinka survivors (""a precious limited resource,"" Teicholz notes; four others, who had positively identified Demjanjuk, died before the Israeli trial) were among the factors that figured in the evidence. Teicholz concludes that Demjanjuk gave ""abstract evil a human face,"" but one looks for that face in vain in this account. Demjanjuk appears first as a passive cipher who may conceal a pent-up rage, and finally as a broken animal, still a cipher. We would have benefited from more on Demjanjuk's Ukrainian upbringing and the political context of his life, and from the author's sifting of the evidence outside the fray of the courtroom. All that aside, however, Teicholz evidences solid research and sound writing: his fair and straightforward account covers the most important particulars of the trial and is enhanced by useful end notes and chronologies (both prosecution and defense versions).

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1990
Publisher: St. Martin's