SEVEN HILLS, Ohio (AP) -- In his adopted home in Ohio, the death of convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk was marked as "the ultimate finality" for a man whose comfortable suburban life in the U.S. was wrenched by decades of murderous allegations.
Demjanjuk, 91, who died Saturday in Germany, was convicted in May of 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder at the Nazis' Sobibor death camp and sentenced to five years in prison. The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk was a retired U.S. autoworker who maintained over three decades of legal battles that he had been mistaken for someone else.
Zev Harel, 82, a Holocaust survivor who watched the case play out in the courts in Cleveland, would only venture that Demjanjuk's later life reflected his service in the Nazi era. "He has the kind of experiences that people that are doing wrong experience," Harel said.
Harel said he felt bad for Demjanjuk's family and what they had to experience over the years as Demjanjuk fought the war-crimes allegations.
He said he remains grateful for the role that the Allied nations played in stopping the Holocaust. "I feel very fortunate for the World War II veterans who liberated the camps," he said.
Rabbi Richard Block, whose Cleveland area congregation includes several dozen Holocaust survivors, said Demjanjuk's death ended an era of decades in the courts across continents. "His death is the ultimate finality," he said.
"One of the saddest legacies of the Holocaust was how few of the perpetrators were brought to justice," Block said. "In this case, justice was very slow in coming."
Block said Demjanjuk's death wasn't a cause for celebration in the Jewish community, but a reminder of the evils of the Holocaust.
"The Holocaust is a demonstration of the terrible evil of which people are capable," he said.
The pursuit of Demjanjuk reflected the government's determination to bring war criminals to justice, said U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, the top federal prosecutor in northern Ohio.
"This marks the end of a decades-long effort in multiple countries that ultimately established the truth about John Demjanjuk's Holocaust crimes," he said in a statement.
"There is no judicial or natural outcome that can erase the acts of Nazi persecution. Over the past three decades, the Justice Department has sought to identify and remove those individuals who denied so many the lives they themselves enjoyed, and give voice to those who were silenced."
Demjanjuk came to the U.S. on Feb. 9, 1952, and eventually settled in Seven Hills, a middle-class suburb of Cleveland, and worked as a mechanic at Ford Motor Co.'s engine plant in nearby Brook Park.
The Ukrainian-American community in Cleveland often complained in response to high-profile legal developments in the Demjanjuk case that selective pursuit of alleged war criminals ignored the terrible position of Ukrainians between murderous Nazi and Soviet regimes.