Useful Enemies—John Demjanjuk and America’s Open Door Policy for Nazi War Criminals by Richard Rashke (Delphinium Books) is a disturbing book.
It exposes with a broad brush the world’s culpability for the Holocaust. Rashke spares no one from the blame, from the planners of the Final Solution at the Wannsee Conference to America’s complicity by shutting its borders to refugees.
John Demjanjuk. This identification card was the key piece of evidence.
The main character of the book is John Demjanjuk. Demjanjuk was a concentration camp guard, who settled in Ohio after World War II. For two decades he fought against the full fury of the United States, Israel and Germany, who tried to bring him to account for his crimes. First he was denaturalized and then deported from the United States. In Israel he was convicted and sentenced to death for war crimes, before winning his appeal before the Supreme Court of Israel. He was deported back to the United States, where he regained but then lost his citizenship and was deported again. Ultimately, he was convicted of war crimes in Germany, only to die while awaiting sentencing.
Rashke treats Demjanjuk sympathetically. He paints Demjanjuk as a victim, targeted for punishment for the world’s worst crimes, while far more significant offenders got away.
Rashke’s point has merit, but the merit is limited. Rashke states that the intelligence community was delighted by the prosecution of Demjanjuk because it drew attention away from America’s use of Nazi war criminals and collaborators as agents in the Cold War.
Rashke’s rationalization of Demjanjuk’s minor role in the Holocaust is wrong. Demjanjuk’s crimes, on their own, merited the loss of his citizenship and prosecution by Israel and Germany. Rashke’s rationalization of Demjanjuk’s crimes is the most disturbing part of the book.
Useful Enemies is an excellent resource on the breadth of the Holocaust, though I disagree with the point of view of the author.