MUNICH, Germany (AFP) - John Demjanjuk appeared an ill man on Monday as he faced the first day of his trial accused of herding tens of thousands of Jews to their death in the Nazi gas chambers during World War II. Demjanjuk, 89, charged with helping to kill 27,900 people while a guard at the Sobibor death camp in 1943, appeared for the first session in a wheelchair, keeping his eyes mostly closed and moaning as he left the room. In the second 90-minute session, Demjanjuk was carried in on a stretcher covered head-to-toe in a white blanket, writhing about and waving his arms before the judge suspended proceedings for close to half an hour. Demjanjuk then returned for what remained of the session, this time with his face uncovered. But at the end of proceedings, after most reporters had left the room, an AFP reporter saw Demjanjuk laughing and joking. Other journalists and lawyers representing Holocaust survivors had previously also witnessed an apparently much more active Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk than he had appeared in court. Efraim Zuroff, head of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, was unmoved, saying: Its a pathetic attempt to appear more crippled than he is. He belongs in Hollywood. People like Demjanjuk dont deserve any sympathy because he had no sympathy for his victims. But his lawyer, Ulrich Busch, who filed a request to have the case scrapped because others higher up the Nazi chain of command had been acquitted previously, denied Demjanjuk was putting on an act. I dont judge it as a show. I think my client is very, very sick, Busch told AFP. This trial should never happened, he should have ben left in America to die peacefully with his family. Demjanjuks family says he suffers from a litany of health complaints including leukaemia and that it is unlikely he will survive the trial. But Christoph Nerl, a specialist in blood diseases, told the court that he was suffering from a lesser complaint which is definitely not leukaemia and that Demjanjuk was in a low-risk group. Demjanjuk denies being at Sobibor, one of a network of camps erected by Adolf Hitlers Germany in Eastern Europe with the sole purpose of mass extermination. Prosecutors say they have an SS identity card bearing his name and transfer orders. He is accused of being at Sobibor from March to September 1943. If convicted, the Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk will almost certainly spend the rest of his days behind bars. If not, he will face an uncertain future as he is stateless, having been stripped of his US citizenship. There are more than 30 plaintiffs in the case, most of whom lost family members at Sobibor. There are no living eyewitnesses who saw Demjanjuk there, so prosecutors will rely heavily on written testimony by people now dead. Robert Cohen, a gaunt 83-year-old from Amsterdam whose parents and brother died at Sobibor, and who himself survived the Auschwitz death camp, was in no doubt that camp guards had blood on their hands. If he (Demjanjuk) was there, he killed more than 100 people per day per day That would be the worst crime ever, Cohen told reporters. Demjanjuk says he was a Red Army soldier captured in 1942 by the Germans and then moved around various prisoner-of-war camps, but Israeli and US courts have already established he was at Sobibor. Busch has said that even if it could be proved his client was in Sobibor, he would have been there under duress and could not now be held responsible for the atrocities carried out. Demjanjuk was sentenced to death in Israel in 1988 for being Ivan the Terrible, a sadistic Nazi guard, but after five years on death row the conviction was overturned when Israel established this was another man.