Charges are filed in Munich, Germany, that John Demjanjuk is an accessory to more than 29,000 murders in the Sobibor concentration camp. Born Ivan Mykolaiovych Demianiuk in the Ukraine, he became a POW in German custody after a battle in the Crimea. Later Demjanjuk was recruited with other Soviet POWs to work for the Germans.
The German government and others believe he became a concentration camp guard but Demjanjuk has always argued that he actually joined the Russian Liberation Army and, under the command of Andrey Vlasov, that he fought against the Soviet Union on the side of Germany.
John Demjanjuk was put on trial before for war crimes in 1986 in Israel where he was charged with being "Ivan the Terrible," a Ukrainian-born guard at the Treblinka death camp who was unusually vicious and brutal. In 1988 Demjanjuk was found guilty and sentenced to death, but after several years of appeals the Israeli Supreme Court overturned his verdict and he was freed.
The Supreme Court concluded that even though he very likely served as a guard in at least one concentration camp under the Nazis, the Israeli prosecutors couldn't prove that he was the same person as Ivan the Terrible. The possibility of mistaken or mixed-up identity was too high to justify a guilty verdict and a death sentence.
Demjanjuk's trial in Germany will be very different from the Israeli trial because German prosecutors aren't going to try to demonstrate that John Demjanjuk was a particular guard who committed particular acts, like for example "Ivan the Terrible." Instead, German prosecutors intend to build their case around proving that John Demjanjuk was simply a guard at the Sobibor death camp, then argue that being a concentration camp guard makes a person an accessory to all of the murders committed during the time they were there.
This is where they get the charge of 29,000 counts of accessory to murder: that's how many people died at Sobibor during the time they believe John Demjanjuk was a guard there. This is a novel legal argument which prosecutors have never tried to use in any German court — not even in the many war crimes trials which have taken place in Germany.
It's also an argument that will be criticized because if it is accepted by the court (and it will be), it means that a person can be found guilty of crimes without the state ever having to prove that they had committed any particular criminal acts.