FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECRM
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 1999(202) 514-2008
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
FEDERAL APPEALS COURT APPROVES DEPORTATION OF FORMER
NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP GUARD
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Justice today announced that a federal appeals court in Cincinnati has affirmed an order directing the deportation of Ferdinand Hammer, 78, a retired foundry supervisor living in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Hammer who served during World War II as an armed Waffen-SS guard at the Nazi-operated Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen concentration camps and on prisoner transports between camps.
Circuit Judge Ronald Lee Gilman, writing for a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, held that Hammer was properly ordered deported in 1997 because, from 1944 through the end of the war, Hammer participated in the persecution of persons because of their race, religion, national origin, or political opinion as a member of the Nazi SS-Totenkopf Sturmbanne (Death's Head Battalions) at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, and at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp outside Berlin. The court cited captured Nazi-regime documents, which showed that Hammer also guarded prisoners on transports between concentration camps during the winter of 1945, as the Nazi evacuated the camps to escape the advancing Soviet Army.
The Court of Appeals noted that "[o]ver one million people were murdered based solely on their religion or ethnicity at the concentration camps where Hammer stood guard." The Auschwitz death camp was the largest in the Nazi camp system and contained the Third Reich's largest facilities of mass murder. Between mid-1940 and January 1945, at least one million people, the overwhelming majority of them Jews, were murdered at Auschwitz.
In January 1945, when the Nazis closed the camp, prisoners were forced to march long distances in freezing conditions without adequate winter clothing. Those unable to keep up with the march were routinely shot. Prisoners were then loaded onto open cattle cars for the rail journey to Sachsenhausen. Many prisoners died during the evacuation, often from exposure. The subsequent transports out of Sachsenhausen were conducted under similar brutal conditions, and many people died as a result.
While Hammer was an armed SS guard at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, tens of thousands of individuals, including Jews, political prisoners, and civilian forced laborers from nations throughout Europe, along with Soviet prisoners of war, were murdered by shooting, hanging or other means, or died as a result of torture, malnourishment, illness, hard physical labor, medical experimentation, or other forms of mistreatment.
The Court of Appeals rejected Hammer's defense that he was not personally involved in any specific atrocities while serving as a concentration camp guard. The court stated that "Nazi concentration camps were places of persecution...[I]ndividuals who, armed with guns, held prisoners captive and prodded them into forced labor with threats of death or capital punishment cannot deny that they aided the Nazis in their program of racial, political and religious oppression."
The case against Hammer was brought by the Criminal Division's Office of Special Investigations (OSI). In May 1996, the United States District Court in Detroit stripped Hammer of his naturalized U.S. citizenship on the ground that Hammer misrepresented his activities during World War II and concealed his service as an armed SS guard from U.S. offficials when he applied for naturalized citizenship in 1963.
"Today's ruling is a very significant victory in the long struggle to bring to justice those who helped the Nazis carry out their program of brutality and murder," said OSI Director Eli M. Rosenbaum. "The Courts decision reaffirms that the United States will not be used as a sanctuary for persons like Hammer, who actively participated in such oppression." Sixty-three persons have now been stripped of U.S. citizenship and 52 have been removed from the United States as a result of cases brought by OSI since the unit's creation in 1979.