A man living in Central Massachusetts is being deported to his native Lithuania because he's believed to be a Nazi war criminal. Vladas Zajanckauskas faces deportation because he lied on his US immigration application more than 50 years ago.
According to a ruling in Boston Thursday, a US immigration judge says Zajanckauskas was part of a notorious Nazi unit that took part in the murder and rape of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. He denies any involvement in war crimes. WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov has more on the story.
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MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: For 57 years Vladas Zanjanckauskas, his wife and daughter appear to have led a quite, normal life in the Worcester area. He migrated to Massachusetts in 1950 and became a citizen in 1956. He worked in a factory that made plastic toys and house wares. He attended Catholic mass regularly and now lives in a house on his daughter's property in Sutton. In court documents he admits he lied about his involvement in the war to obtain his US visa because he feared his service in the German Army would ruin his chances. His citizenship was revoked in 2005 and after numerous appeals a deportation order was issued yesterday. His lawyer did not return calls for comment.
The Department of Justice's director of the Office of Special Investigations, Eli Rosenbaum says Zanjanckauskas was involved in the training of men at a camp in Trawniki, Poland and then he was sent to Warsaw.
ELI ROSENBAUM: He was provable deployed in 1943 for Warsaw Poland for the liquidation of the Warsaw Jewish ghetto one of the most notorious crimes of world war two.
MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: In court papers, Zanjanckauskas has said he did not take part in crimes against Jews. But in the deportation ruling the judge said in Warsaw he prevented Jews from escaping, guarded captured Jews, and conducted house-to-house searches for Jews in hiding. And he was one of the top-ranked individuals of a unit that the judge says committed "terrible crimes" including murder and rape.
Zanjanckauskas says he was taken prisoner by the German Army and did not join the Trawniki guard of his own volition. He says he worked in the canteen from the end of his training until he was evacuated in 1944. He admits he was sent to Warsaw during the Jewish Ghetto uprising, but he says there is no proof that he did what other Trawniki guards did. But the Justice Department's Rosenbaum says that's not true.
ELI ROSENBAUM: The proof is in the testimony of our expert historians and the documents itself that show he was not just running a canteen.
MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Working in the kitchen is a common alibi for many accused of Nazi war crimes, says Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center a Jewish human rights organization in Los Angeles. Hier says Zanjanckauskas is getting off easy.
MARVIN HIER: He's lucky that the only form of justice that is availably is his deportation because he belonged to a murder squad and participated in mass atrocities. Because the SS that were trained at Trawniki, they were trained for one thing, killing Jews.
MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Zanjanckauskas has pled for leniency because he says since he moved to the Worchester area, he's had no criminal record. Court documents say his wife, they met in Poland during the war, suffers from PTSD and Alzheimer's. Zanjanckauskas is now 92 and says in documents that if he is deported to Lithuania his wife would come too and he doesn't think she could survive. Hier from the Wiesenthal center doesn't have much sympathy for his plea.
ELI ROSENBAUM: whatever compassion there should be should be, should be compassion that is used up on his victims with none left for him.
MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Zanjanckauskas has 30 days to appeal the ruling. If he's sent back to Lithuania, that government will decide whether to prosecute him for war crimes. The US department of Justice says it's investigating several other people in Massachusetts for Nazi war crimes.
For WBUR I'm Monica Brady-Myerov.
This program aired on August 17, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.