FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECRM
TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2000(202) 514-2008
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
COURT REVOKES U.S. CITIZENSHIP OF FORMER NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP GUARD
WASHINGTON, DC - A federal judge in Philadelphia has revoked the U.S. citizenship of retired machinist, Theodor Szehinskyj 76, of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, for his activity as a Nazi concentration camp guard during World War II.
In a decision issued yesterday, Judge Stewart Dalzell ruled that Szehinskyj's World War II service in the SS Death's Head Guard Battalions as an armed guard of civilian prisoners at the Gross-Rosen, Sachsenhausen and Warsaw Concentration Camps, constituted assistance in persecution.
The court ruled that Szehinskyj's Nazi service constituted "participation in the Third Reich's closed culture of murder."
"This decision is proof that the cries for justice of the surviving victims from this terrible period in human history are still heard," said Eli M. Rosenbaum, Director of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations (OSI). "Szehinskyj and the other SS Death's Head guards were integral parts of the Nazi system of degradation, brutality and murder."
Szehinskyj was born in 1924 in Galicia which was part of pre-war Poland, but is now in the Ukraine. He became a laborer on the Austrian farm of Hildegard Lechner in February 1942. While Szehinskyj claimed that he remained on the Lechner farm until November 1944, Mrs. Lechner testified by deposition that Szehinskyj left her farm in the fall of 1942. The court ruled that her testimony supports captured Nazi wartime documents which show that Szehinskyj entered the Waffen SS in January 1943 and served as a concentration camp guard until 1945.
The court made the following findings:
- Szehinskyj was trained and served at Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp. Conditions at Gross-Rosen were degrading and inhumane, and the prisoners there were subjected to physical and psychological abuse, including forced labor and murder. All guards carried firearms and were under standing orders to shoot any prisoner who attempted to escape. The guards at Gross-Rosen used guns, torture, and humiliation to force the prisoners to work and to prevent their escape.
- Szehinskyj was transferred to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in May 1943. Sachsenhausen was another part of the Nazi concentration camp 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.
- From September 1943 until May 1944, Szehinskyj was assigned to Warsaw Concentration Camp, which was established after the Nazis' suppression of the Warsaw ghetto uprising in the spring of 1943. Prisoners were brought to Warsaw Concentration Camp from various concentration camps to perform forced labor demolishing surviving structures from the Warsaw ghetto.
- Szehinskyj was reassigned to Sachsenhausen in May 1944 and served there as an SS Death's Head guard until February 1945 when he was ordered to guard a transport of prisoners to Mauthausen Concentration Camp and then report for duty as a guard at Flossenburg Concentration Camp.
- Szehinskyj entered the U.S. in 1950, using a visa obtained in Swineforth, Germany. He became a naturalized citizen in 1958.
Judge Dalzell stated that it is important to prosecute cases such as this in order not to "dishonor Sidney Glucksman, Rudolf Herz, Karl Schlesigner and Marion Wojciechowski [four survivor witnesses in this case], and the millions of other victims - some living, but most dead - of the greatest moral catastrophe of our civilization." "This decision stands as a warning to others in this country who, like Szehinskyj, 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 with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia. It is part of ongoing efforts to identify those who assisted in Nazi persecution residing in this country. To date, 64 Nazi persecutors have been stripped of U.S. citizenship and 53 have been removed from the United States since OSI began operations in 1979. Another approximately 250 persons are currently under investigation by OSI.