John Demjanjuk, thought by many to be the Nazi concentration camp guard called “Ivan the Terrible,” disputed the allegations until he died. He was married to Vera Demjanjuk and they had three children while he lived in the United States: John Jr., Irene, and Lydia. He’s the subject of Netflix’s new documentary, The Devil Next Door. Here are more details about his children.
1. His Family Always Disputed That He Was Ivan the Terrible
Demjanjuk said he was born in April 1920, CBS reported, in central Ukraine. He was a tractor driver for a collective farm and was captured during the battle of Kerch Peninsula in May 1942. He sought U.S. citizenship in 1950 on the basis of being a farmer in Poland, and later said he lied so he wouldn’t be sent back to the Ukraine.
Demjanjuk was first accused of being Ivan the Terrible in 1977 by the U.S. Justice Department. He defended himself against those accusations after being extradited to Israel in 1986 to stand trial. His verdict was overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court after an appeal in 1993. They said evidence showed that a different man was Ivan the Terrible. Demjanjuk returned to Cleveland in 1993. His citizenship was reinstated in 1998 and then revoked again in 2002 based on new evidence from the Department of Justice. German prosecutors filed charges in 2009, based partially on an SS ID card. He was deported in May 2009 and claimed the ID was a forgery.
Even after his conviction, his family tried to have his citizenship to the U.S. reinstated so he could return to Cleveland before he died, CBS reported. One point they used was a 1985 FBI document that questioned the authenticity of a Nazi ID card.
2. During One of His Trials in the 1980s, His Wife & Children Yelled at the Prosecutors
In 1988, during one of his trials, Irene Nishnic, John Jr., and his wife Vera walked onto the stage and yelled at the prosecutors, telling them that they were all liars. Security guards rushed them out, the Los Angeles Times reported. At the time, John Jr. was 22 and Irene was 28.
Irene said she believed everything had been a lie from the beginning and he wasn’t getting a fair trial. John Jr. said that 21 camp survivors who couldn’t identify his dad had their statements withheld.
3. Ed Nichnic Became the Family Spokesman, Attending Most of Demjanjuk’s Trials
Irene Demjanjuk was married to Ed Nichnic, Toledo Blade reported in 2009. Ed became the unofficial family spokesman and almost always went to John’s trials.
Nichnic (sometimes spelled Nishnic) and Demjanjuk’s grandson appear on the Netflix series. Nichnic still advocates for his father-in-law’s innocence.
An article by Cleveland.com mentioned how Eddie Nishnic once stood up for the author when they were getting beaten up by other kids.
4. John Jr. Always Believed in His Father’s Innocence
His son, John Demjanjuk Jr., said about his father’s death: “My father fell asleep with the Lord as a victim and survivor of Soviet and German brutality since childhood. He loved life, family and humanity. History will show Germany used him as a scapegoat to blame helpless Ukrainian POWs for the deeds of Nazi Germans.”
John Jr. always believed that his dad was used as a scapegoat to “blame helpless Ukrainian POWs for the deeds of Nazi Germans,” Cleveland.com reported. Born in 1965, he still lives in Ohio, according to public documents from January 2019.
After Demjanjuk died in 2012, Vera Demjanjuk was still saying that the Justice Department had done a “dirty job,” Cleveland.com reported. She said she had 10 grandchildren and was very worried about their future. (Other reports say they have seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.)
5. Lydia Demjanjuk Believed the Media Was Biased Against Her Dad
Lydia Demjanjuk was the oldest of the two daughters – aged 37 when he was on trial in the 1980s. She was disillusioned by the media and believed most of the reports were biased, Toledo Blade reported in 2009. In 1987, she said the judges had already made their decision about her father, AP reported.