FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, JULY 21, 1999(202)514-2008
TDD (202) 514-1888
COURT REVOKES U.S. CITIZENSHIP OF FORMER NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP GUARD
WASHINGTON, DC -- The Department of Justice announced today that a federal judge in St. Louis, Missouri, has revoked the citizenship of Michael Negele, 79, of St. Peters, Missouri, a retired aircraft worker and former concentration camp guard. Judge E. Richard Webber ruled that Negele's World War II service in the SS Death's Head Guard Battalion as a guard of civilian prisoners at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, and at the Theresienstadt Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, made him ineligible for U.S. citizenship.
"This decision is a powerful affirmation that it is still possible to secure a measure of justice on behalf of the victims of Nazi inhumanity, despite the passage of many years," said Eli M. Rosenbaum, Director of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations. "Men like Negele helped ensure that victims of Nazi barbarism could not escape and thereby facilitated the perpetration of the Nazi's abominable crimes."
Negele was born in Romania and entered the Romanian Army in 1942, when Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany. The court's decision cited expert testimony and historical documents introduced by the Government -- including captured Nazi personnel records -- which show that Negele voluntarily joined the Waffen SS in November 1943. At trial, Negele admitted serving in the Waffen SS, but claimed that he had been drafted.
Negele was stationed at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which the court's decision describes as part of the Nazi program of "annihilation through labor," where prisoners were literally worked to death. Prisoners in Sachsenhausen were confined under grotesquely inhumane conditions, and thousands died there as a result of starvation, disease, hanging, gassing, medical experimentation, and shooting.
SS Death's Head guards, including Negele, were responsible for the security of the camp, keeping the prisoners in the camp, guarding the prisoners during slave labor details outside of the camp, and enforcing the rules and regulations that governed the concentration camps. All guards carried firearms and were under standing orders to shoot any prisoner who attempted to escape.
At Sachsenhausen, Negele was selected for special training in the use of a guard dog. Guards with dogs were used to patrol the perimeter of concentration camps, to guard prisoners en route to and from transports and work details, and to pursue escaped prisoners. The SS regulations stated that dogs were trained to attack prisoners when ordered by their handler, to subdue escaped and escaping prisoners, and, if necessary, to "bite without mercy."
After serving as a guard at Sachsenhausen, Negele was transferred to the Theresienstadt Jewish ghetto in what is now the Czech Republic. The walled fortress town of Theresienstadt served as an internment camp for Jews, as well as a collection center for Jews about to be transported by train to the extermination facilities at the Auschwitz and Treblinka death camps in Poland. Disease and starvation were rampant in Theresienstadt, and tens of thousands of prisoners died in the ghetto as a result.
Negele admitted at trial that he guarded the outside perimeter of Theresienstadt with the same dog he had been assigned while at Sachsenhausen. He also admitted that his assignment was to prevent prisoners from escaping the ghetto, and to use his dog to pursue and catch prisoners who tried to escape.
Negele entered the U.S. in 1950, using a visa he obtained in Stuttgart. The court that Negele concealed his guard service by falsely stating on his visa application that he had served in the German army. Under U.S. immigration law, Negele would not have been eligible for a visa had he disclosed that he had actually served in the Waffen SS, and had been a guard at a Nazi-operated concentration camp and ghetto. The court ruled that Negele's U.S. citizenship, which he obtained in 1955, had been illegally procured and was subject to revocation.
"The decision stands as a warning to others in this country who, like Negele, participated in the infamous Nazi program of persecution, that the Department of Justice will continue vigorously to identify, investigate, and take legal action against them," said Rosenbaum.
The case was brought by (OSI) along with the U.S. Attorney's Office in St. Louis. It is part of ongoing efforts to identify those who assisted in Nazi persecution residing in this country. To date, 63 Nazi persecutors have been stripped of U.S. citizenship and 52 have been removed from the United States since OSI began operations in 1979. Another 250 persons are currently under investigation by OSI.