He was born Yvan Demjanjuk in 1920 in the west of Ukraine. After serving in the Red Army at the start of World War Two, he says he was captured by German troops. He says he then served as a guard at Nazi prison camps in Poland and Germany.
Eventually tracked down to the US many years later, he was extradited to Israel, where he was sentenced to death in 1988. Five years later, however, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the verdict that said he was the notorious prison guard “Ivan the Terrible”. Judges said that was more than likely someone else. Demjanjuk returned to Cleveland, Ohio, and his US citizenship was restored in 1998. Just one year later, however, the case was reopened. He once again lost his citizenship when a judge ruled there was proof he had worked at Nazi camps. Claims that Demjanjuk was bed-ridden and could not be deported were eventually dismissed after he was filmed walking unaided. Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Efraim Zuroff, said: “This a very wonderful day for justice today. The fact that this person, who was an active participant in the mass murder of 29,000 Jews in Sobibor death camp from March till September 1943, is finally going to stand trial for those crimes is extremely important, extremely significant.” Demjanjuk has denied any role in the Holocaust, but last month the Simon Wiesenthal Centre made him number one on its most-wanted list.