FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT MOVES TO REVOKE U.S. CITIZENSHIP OF
CHICAGO AREA MAN WHO SERVED AS NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP GUARD
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Christopher A. Wray, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division, today announced that the Justice Department has asked a federal court in Chicago to revoke the U.S. citizenship of a Bensenville, Illinois resident on the basis of his service during World War II in the Waffen SS as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp in Germany.
In a complaint filed today, the Criminal Division's Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois allege that Joseph Wittje, 83, was born in Romania, entered the Nazi Waffen SS in July 1943, and served as an armed guard of prisoners in the SS Death’s Head Guard Battalion (Totenkopf-Wachbataillon) at the notorious Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, near Berlin, until February 1945.Political prisoners, Jews and other innocent civilians from nearly every country in Europe were incarcerated in Sachsenhausen because they were considered enemies of the Nazi state. Prisoners in Sachsenhausen were confined under ruthless conditions and thousands died there from starvation, disease, hanging, gassing, medical experimentation, and shooting.
The complaint alleges that in late February 1945, Wittje was transferred to a combat unit, in which he served until the end of the war. Wittje entered the U.S. in 1950 using a visa he had obtained in Salzburg, Austria, after concealing his concentration camp guard service from U.S. officials. The complaint alleges that Wittje’s service in the Waffen SS rendered him ineligible to enter the United States. The complaint further charges that Wittje falsely denied service in the Waffen SS, and membership in several affiliate organizations of the Nazi Party, when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1959.
OSI Director Eli M. Rosenbaum said, “The Department of Justice will not relent in its efforts to identify Nazi persecutors such as Joseph Wittje and to ensure through legal action that they be stripped of their illegally obtained U.S. citizenship.”
The initiation of proceedings to denaturalize Wittje is a result of OSI's ongoing efforts to identify, investigate and take legal action against former participants in Nazi persecution who reside in the United States. Since OSI began operations in 1979, 71 individuals who assisted in Nazi persecution have been stripped of U.S. citizenship and 58 such persons have been removed from the United States. In addition, more than 160 individuals who sought to enter the United States in recent years have been blocked from doing so as a result of OSI's “Watch List” program.
Members of the public are reminded that the complaint contains only allegations. It will be the government's burden to prove the allegations by clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence.