Exactly two years after arriving in Munich, Germany, to stand trial for war crimes, John Demjanjuk is found guilty of 27,900 counts of being an accessory to murder — one charge for each of the people who were killed at the Sobibor concentration camp while he supposed to be was a guard there. He is sentenced to five years in prison but is released to a nursing home pending his appeals.
Born Ivan Mykolaiovych Demianiuk in the Ukraine, he fought for the Soviets against Germany and was captured in the Crimea. Later Demjanjuk was recruited with other Soviet POWs to work for the Nazis. The German government and others have accused him of being a concentration camp guard, but Demjanjuk has argued that he instead joined the Russian Liberation Army which, under the command of Andrey Vlasov, fought against the Soviet Union on the side of Germany.
John Demjanjuk has been on trial before for war crimes. Israel charged him 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 this verdict was overturned and he was freed. The Israeli Supreme Court decided that while he had certainly been a guard at a Nazi concentration camp, the prosecution didn't provide prove that he had actually been Ivan the Terrible — a particular guard who had committed particular war crimes.
Demjanjuk's trial in Germany was different from the Israeli trial because German prosecutors didn't try to prove that he was Ivan the Terrible or any other particular concentration camp guard who committed particular war crimes. Instead the prosecutors built their case around proving that John Demjanjuk was a guard at the Sobibor death camp, then argued that being a guard at a concentration camp made a person an accessory to all of the murders committed during the time they were there.
This argument had never been offered by prosecutors in a German court before, despite how many war crimes trials have taken place in Germany over the years. It's also an argument that many have criticized because it meant that a person could be found guilty of crimes without the state ever having to prove that they had committed any particular acts.