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Germans have to live with Nazi past a bit longer

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More than six decades after World War Two and the Holocaust, and just when it is starting to take a more assertive role on the world stage, Germany has been confronted by its Nazi past – again.

Retired U.S. auto worker John Demjanjuk, 89, has been deported to Germany and prosecutors in Munich want to put him on trial for assisting to murder at least 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor extermination camp in 1943. With most Nazi criminals dead, it is likely to be the last big Nazi war crime trial in Germany.

The case raises a number of questions which affect the way Germans look at themselves and relate to the world around them. The deafening silence from politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, says a lot about how intent Germans are on viewing the case as a purely legal matter.

Demjanjuk’s health poses one problem. While his family says he is is too frail to stand trial, some Germans argue it will not do their justice system any good to have a sick old man in the dock and that he could even end up winning sympathy – a potentially embarrassing outcome.

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