Ivan Demjanjuk was born on April 3, 1920 in the Ukrainian village of Dubovi Makarensy. He work as a tractor driver before served with the Red Army. He was captured by Germans during a battle in Kerch, eastern Crimea, in May 1942, and transported to a prisoner camp by Rivne.
Demjanjuk survived from the Nazi prisoner camp’s hell, as he later said in court, by given his soul “for a loaf of bread," and join with the SS auxiliaries. He was send to the SS's Trawniki training camp near Lublin in eastern Poland, joining a band of about 5,000 "foreign volunteers," including Balts, Ukrainians and Volga Germans. They did the Nazis' dirty work in the occupied areas of Eastern Europe, sometimes voluntarily, but often under duress. After finishing his Camp Keeper training, Demjanjuk got his Wachmann rank.
From January 1943 Demjanjuk was posted at the Majdanek Concentration Camp. From there, on March 26 1943, he got posted at the Sobibór Concentration Camp. He ended the war at the Flossenbürg Concentration camp where he, in early 1944, became promoted to an active member of the Waffen-SS (Totenkopf Flossenbürg).
In the chaos of postwar Germany, Demjanjuk escape from repatriation to Soviet Union or trial, and found a job as a driver in some displaced persons camps in southern German. 1n 1952, he move to the United States with his family. Naturalized in 1958, they were settled in Ohio, where Demjanjuk, now known as John Demjanjuk, worked as an autoworker in a Ford auto plant.
His quiet life disrupted in the late 1970s when some Holocaust survivors who were asked to identified Feodor Fedorenko, another Ukrainian who served as a guard in Treblinka and lived in the United States after the war, on a photo spread also pointed Demjanjuk picture. They accused him as “Ivan the Terrible”, a notorious guard at the Treblinka and Sobibór extermination camps during the period 1942–1943 who committed murder and acts of extraordinarily savage violence against camp prisoners. In 1986, after a lengthy investigation, American authorities decided to extradite Demjanjuk from the United States to Israel.
Demjanjuk was put on trial in Israel between November 26, 1986, and April 18, 1988. The principal allegation was that three former prisoners identified Demjanjuk as Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, who operated the diesel engines sending gas to the death chamber. The court found Demjanjuk guilty of all charges and sentenced him to death by hanging.
However, the sentenced had been cancelled after an appeal by Demjanjuk lawyers could give evidences that proved Demjanjuk was not Ivan the Terrible. Israeli Supreme Court acquitted him and decided to release him rather than to pursue charges of committing crimes at Sobibór, which was not included in his indictment.
Demjanjuk was released to return to the United States. However, once again he faces another civil complaint. No mention was made in the new complaint of the previous allegations that Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible. Instead, the complaint alleged that he served as a guard at the Sobibór and Majdanek camps in Poland under German occupation and at the Flossenburg camp in Germany. He was put on trial again in 2001.
On December 28, 2005, an immigration judge ordered Demjanjuk deported to Germany, Poland or Ukraine. Finally, he was deported to Germany on May 2009, where prosecutors charged him with 27,900 counts of accessory to murder. He died on 17 March 2012 at a home for the elderly in Bad Feilnbach, Germany.