WASHINGTON, D.C.—A federal appeals court today affirmed a lower court ruling revoking the naturalized U.S. citizenship of an Iowa man based on his participation in the persecution of civilians while serving as an armed SS guard at two notorious Nazi concentration camps during World War II, announced Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher, of the Criminal Division.
An opinion issued today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in St. Louis, unanimously affirmed an April 2005 ruling by a federal district court in Des Moines, Iowa that revoked the U.S. citizenship of John Hansl, 81, of Des Moines, because of his admitted wartime service as an armed SS guard at the Sachsenhausen and Natzweiler concentration camps, where thousands of Jewish and other prisoners suffered and died. The Court of Appeals noted in its decision that “Hansl gave orders to prisoners…had strict orders to shoot any prisoner who tried to escape...warned prisoners that these were his orders.” The case was prosecuted in trial court and the appeals were litigated by the Criminal Division’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI).
A federal court in Des Moines last year found that Hansl, who was born in what is now Croatia and immigrated to this country in 1955, served from February 1943 through October 1943 as an armed guard of prisoners in the SS Death’s Head Guard Battalion at the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, near Berlin, Germany. After a brief assignment to an SS unit in Nazi-occupied Poland, Hansl served from March through October 1944 as an armed SS Death’s Head guard of prisoners at Natzweiler Concentration Camp, in Nazi-occupied France. At both camps, Hansl guarded prisoners from watch towers, marched them at gunpoint to and from forced labor sites, and guarded them while they performed forced labor. Prisoners in Sachsenhausen and Natzweiler were confined under ruthless conditions and thousands died there from starvation, disease, hanging, gassing, medical experimentation and shooting.
“The Nazis created the Sachsenhausen and Natzweiler concentration camps for the specific purpose of persecuting and murdering innocent civilians,” said OSI Director Eli M. Rosenbaum. “Hansl and other SS guards played essential roles in carrying out the Third Reich’s genocidal conspiracy at the concentration camps.”
The proceedings to denaturalize Hansl were instituted by OSI and the United States Attorney’s Office in Des Moines. The case was litigated by OSI Senior Trial Attorneys Jeffrey L. Menkin and David W. Folts, and it was argued before the Court of Appeals by Menkin. The case 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, it has won cases against 101 individuals who assisted in Nazi persecution. In addition, more than 170 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, which is enforced in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security.