Reactions are split as the news makes its way around the Internet that Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk was convicted of almost 30,000 counts of accessory to murder and sentenced to five years in prison. The retired U.S. autoworker's case is so controversial because some say it's delayed justice for heinous Holocaust crimes, while others maintain there's no credible evidence that he actually committed a specific crime. And then there are those people who wonder whether it's pointless at this point to convict a 91-year-old man that is frail and sick and unlikely to survive his five-year sentence.
Should he have just been left alone?
Much has been made of the fact that Demjanjuk is of advanced age and has poor health. He has spent the 18 months of legal proceedings either sitting in a wheelchair or lying on a stretcher (although there is some skepticism as to whether he is exaggerating his ailments to illicit sympathy from the court). Moreover, the court noted that he needs daily medical attention. One can gather from this that his five-year sentence is likely a death sentence.
But that doesn't mean he shouldn't have to serve it. Just because a lot of time has passed doesn't mean he's any less guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted by a court of law.
Many Holocaust survivors will tell you that the pain of losing family members in the death camps never ever lessens and it certainly doesn't go away. Still, they view the convictions of Nazi war criminals as victories -- even so many years afterward -- because these people are finally being held accountable for the horrible crimes they committed and brought to justice. Sure, it may be late, but at least it's not never.
What's tricky about the Demjanjuk case is that his defense maintains there's no proof he actually committed a crime (an argument that is now moot given his conviction Thursday). But to argue that he's too old and sick to be brought to justice? Well, that's entirely missing the point.
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