CLEVELAND (AP) - A federal judge on Thursday revoked the citizenship of John Demjanjuk, agreeing with government allegations he was a guard at Nazi death and forced labor camps during World War II.
Judge Paul R. Matia ruled, "The government has proven by clear, convincing, and unequivocal evidence that defendant assisted in the persecution of civilian populations during World War II."
Matia said World War II-era documents, including a military service pass, prove that Demjanjuk (pictured, above) worked in Nazi camps in Sobibor, Trawniki, Majdanek in Poland and Flossenburg in Germany.
Demjanjuk, a Ukranian who went by the name Ivan in his homeland, has insisted he was a prisoner of war.
Matia ruled that Demjanjuk, now 81, must surrender his U.S. passport and naturalization papers within 10 days.
The ruling sets in motion a years-long process that could end with Demjanjuk's expulsion from the United States, if the government can find another country willing to let him live there, said Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, which coordinated the criminal case.
Rosenbaum said Demjanjuk could be deported only after all of his appeals are exhausted.
Demjanjuk formerly was accused of being a sadistic Nazi guard "Ivan the Terrible" at Treblinka, in Poland from 1942-43. He lost his U.S. citizenship in 1981 on evidence that he had been the murderous Ivan.
The 1981 case resulted in trial in Israel, where Demjanjuk was convicted and sentenced to death in 1988. However, his conviction there was overturned in 1993, mainly on new evidence that someone else was Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka.
Ed Nishnic, Demjanjuk's son-in-law and family spokesman, said Demjanjuk would appeal Thursday's ruling.
"We tried our case and continue to believe the government is wrong. We most respectfully believe that Judge Matia has made serious factual and legal errors in his opinion.
"It is true that judges have ruled against us in the past and public opinion has been against us in the past. Nevertheless, we have proven them wrong before and have been vindicated. We will appeal and will prove them wrong once again."
Justice officials also raised the possibility of extraditing Demjanjuk to stand new criminal charges in another country, one whose citizens were among those executed in the death camps.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Michael Chertoff said that, in the early hours of Thursday's ruling, no countries had asked for permission to extradite Demjanjuk.
Ephraim Zuroff, head of the Israeli branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which monitors attacks on Jewish organizations and people, said, "Justice has won the day.
"It's an extremely important decision, and one that upholds the decision of the Israeli Supreme Court which established clearly that Ivan Demjanjuk was a Nazi war criminal."
Demjanjuk, a former Ford Motor Co. factory worker, lives in the Cleveland suburb Seven Hills. He did not attend the trial over his citizenship, which ended in June.
He has spurned public attention since returning eight years ago from Israel. Seven Hills police have enforced a "No Trespassing" sign posted at the driveway of his home.
The family on Thursday turned down a request by The Associated Press to interview Demjanjuk.
A deposition Demjanjuk gave to government lawyers in July 2000 was his last comment on his past.
Demjanjuk, who used a Ukrainian translator due to his poor English, said: "I was in captivity in the military prison, and then I ended up in Graz. From Graz I ended up in Heuberg. And that is -- that is it. That's where it ends. And what is written here, how could it be me?"
His lawyers argued that there could have been another person named Ivan Demjanjuk who was the Nazi guard in question.
They said he may have been confused with a cousin from the same Ukrainian village who also was Ivan Demjanjuk. In the deposition, Demjanjuk said that cousin joined the Soviet Army a few weeks before he did. He said he remembered a farewell party for the cousin.
Keys to the government's case were documents kept by the Germans and archived by the Soviet Union that prosecutors said showed Demjanjuk was guard number 1393 and assigned to several Nazi camps after he was trained at Trawniki in Poland.
In a separate case, Allan Malloth, a 90-year-old former Nazi SS guard lost his appeal to Germany's highest criminal court Thursday against a May murder conviction for beating and kicking a Jewish inmate to death during the war.
Malloth's lawyers argued that he had not been well enough to stand trial.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)