City Councilman David Greenfield and State Assemblyman Dov Hikind will hold a press conference today in Borough Park, in order to protest a State Department decision allowing the body of convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk to be transported to the United States for burial.
Demjanjuk was a Ukrainian national captured by German troops during World War II, who later worked as a guard for the Nazi’s notorious SS Totenkopfverbände at a death camp in Poland.
Although the Israeli Supreme Court overturned Demjanjuk’s 1988 conviction for crimes against humanity in 1993, he was later convicted by a German court in 2011. While free pending an appeal, Demjanjuk died at a German nursing home on March 17, 2012.
After the war in Europe ended, the former death camp guard hid his identity and emigrated to the United States. Upon becoming an American citizen in 1958, he anglicized his name from Ivan to John, and came to reside in Ohio, where much of his family still lives today.
Despite Demjanjuk having been stripped of his American citizenship, the U.S. consulate in Munich is currently helping his family fly his body back to Cleveland, Ohio for burial.
This decision has many in the Jewish community worried. Since Nazism is essentially legal in the United States, where it’s usually considered to be protected under free speech – unlike in the E.U., where it is outlawed – there is the possibility Demjanjuk’s grave site could become a neo-Nazi shrine.
Demjanjuk was ultimately convicted of being an accessory to 27,900 murders.
The press conference is expected to take place at Greenfield’s office, which is located at 4424 16th Avenue, at 3:30 p.m. today.
[UPDATE] 6:00 p.m.
According to a statement put out by Greenfield’s office after the press conference, “exact details about the burial have not been released, except that it’s expected to take place in Seven Hills, Ohio sometime next week.”
“We need to send a clear message that Nazis are not welcome here in American. The idea that an individual responsible for so many horrific deaths would be flown back to the United States for burial is outrageous and unacceptable,” Greenfield told reporters. “He does not deserve to be back in the United States, and we are calling on the United States government to end any cooperation.”