World War II was a long time ago. So long ago, in fact, that despite programs to search out “escaped” Nazis indicted for war crimes, it’s pretty much assumed that within the next 5-10 years, the search can be called off because they will all have died of old age anyways.
So it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of media attention following John Demjanjuk, a man who’s been put on trial multiple times on suspicion of… well I’m not sure, really. It’s very confusing. Allegations of tainted evidence pop up. In a rare show of competence for them, the Wikipedia entry on the man (at least at the moment I type this) is fairly balanced and informative, so I’ll link it as well.
In the larger scope, I find it troubling to watch this case. Whether Demjanjuk was a POW (as a Ukrainian citizen taken when the Nazis rolled over Europe), or whether he was a minor guard, it’s been established that the original charges - all based on mistaken identification - that he was “Ivan the Terrible”, a Nazi torturer later identified by Soviet records as being an entirely different man by the name of Ivan Marchenko. At this point, we’ve got a man who apparently lived a relatively clean and law-abiding life in the US for more than 30 years. He is 91 years old, in a wheelchair, and in such poor health that court sessions had to be limited to 90 minutes per day. A lot of the evidence is in doubt - especially certain evidence recently declassified by the FBI in the US, which the German court decided not to even consider.
I really don’t know what to make of it all. For those who are seeking some form of closure from WWII, perhaps it makes sense to go after everyone - however minor - who was involved in anything to do with the Nazis. On the other side of the argument, a lot of people went along with what was done because, well, they were scared of being shot or worse yet, being put into those conditions themselves.
Not everyone is able to stand up and say “I will not betray principles no matter what the coercion.” And absent some other intervening reason, or proof that someone didn’t just follow the orders given them at gunpoint but actively helped to organize the event, I’m not certain what good this particular prosecution really does.