Useful Enemy: John Demjanjuk (seen above) almost certainly served as a guard at a Nazi death camp, but according to author Richard Rashke’s new book, he probably did not deserve to undergo a 34-year-long ordeal before receiving a five-year prison sentence.
By Julia M. Klein
● Useful Enemies: John Demjanjuk and America’s Open-Door Policy for Nazi War Criminals
By Richard Rashke
Delphinium Books, 622 pages, $29.95
There is horror to spare in Richard Rashke’s “Useful Enemies: John Demjanjuk and America’s Open-Door Policy for Nazi War Criminals,” an engrossing cri de coeur about our country’s skewed post-World War II priorities.
The most obvious horror arises from Rashke’s graphic descriptions of atrocities committed by the Treblinka concentration camp guard known as “Ivan the Terrible,” as well as by Nazi doctors and Eastern European thugs — deeds so appalling that they will shake even those steeped in Holocaust grotesqueries.
More broadly, there is the ideological horror of America’s policy of tolerance toward Nazi war criminals — toward anyone, no matter how villainous and corrupt, that some government agency thought might be useful during the Cold War.
There is the lesser-known horror of American soldiers brutally expelling Soviet prisoners of war and even civilians from displaced persons camps and other relatively safe havens, to face imprisonment, torture and death in a hostile Soviet Union. And there is the horror of the decades of silence and cover-ups that obscured these American transgressions.