April 13, 2010 / 5:27 PM / 10 years ago

Demjanjuk rejects Nazi camp murder accusations

Accused Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk sits in a wheelchair as he arrives in a courtroom in Munich March 17, 2010. REUTERS/Christof Stache/Pool

MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - Accused Nazi camp guard John Demjanjuk responded to charges in a German courtroom for the first time on Tuesday, attacking the justice system and referring to himself as a “prisoner of war.”

In a statement read to the Munich court by defence attorney Ulrich Busch, the 90-year-old Demjanjuk rejected charges he helped kill 27,900 Jews during the Holocaust.

“(I) was forcibly deported to Germany where an essentially false charge of accessory to murder was made,” he said in the statement, read while he lay motionless in a mobile bed wearing dark sunglasses.

German state prosecutors accuse Demjanjuk, who was top of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s list of most-wanted war criminals, of assisting in killings at the Sobibor death camp in Poland, where they say at least 250,000 Jews were killed.

The retired auto worker was born in Ukraine and fought in the Red Army before being captured by the Nazis and recruited as a camp guard during World War Two. He emigrated to the United States in 1951 and became a naturalised citizen in 1958.

In his comments on Tuesday, Demjanjuk attacked Germany for both its role in the war and for bringing him to trial.

“It is not right that one wants to make a war criminal out of a prisoner of war,” his statement said. “Germany is guilty of a war of extermination in which I lost my home.”

Demjanjuk denies having worked at Sobibor, and his family says he is too frail for a trial which he began in a wheelchair and now attends lying down after complaining of pain.

“I am thankful to the care personnel — they help reduce the great pain brought by this trial, which I consider torture,” he said in the statement.

Reporting by Jens Hack; writing by Brian Rohan; editing by Andrew Roche

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