For more than 65 years, justice was denied in bringing former Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk to account for his role in the murders of 28,000 Jews at the infamous Sobibor concentration camp. At long last that justice finally has been realized.
The war crimes conviction of the 91-year-old Demjanjuk in a German court last week marks the end of a tortured, decades-long odyssey through international law, which saw the former Cleveland autoworker denying accusations he was a willing participant in carrying out Adolf Hitler's Final Solution.
A death sentence handed down by an Israeli court was overturned in 1993 when it was determined Demjanjuk was not the brutal Treblinka concentration camp guard Ivan the Terrible. But Demjanjuk could not escape mounting evidence he was a former Soviet army prisoner of war who agreed to become an SS thug willing to assist in the killings of thousands of men, women and children in Sobibor's gas chambers.
Demjanjuk, who has been in German custody for the past two years, has been permitted to remain free pending the appeal of his five-year sentence. It is altogether possible, given his age and frailty, that Demjanjuk might not live long enough to die behind bars. No matter. More important, Demjanjuk has faced the dock of history and the souls of his victims and found to be a murderer.
In this instance, the symbolism of the unrelenting quest to round up the remaining living vestiges of Hitler's depravity regardless of their advanced age or declining health speaks to the critical need to not allow the memory of the Third Reich's evil to fade with time and dwindling numbers of the Greatest Generation.
It is possible the trial of John Demjanjuk could well represent the last war crimes prosecution stemming from World War II. If so, it is fitting the last war crimes tribunal took place in Germany, where one man's insanity began a worldwide descent into war.