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Washington, D.C.- A Michigan man who served during World War II as a guard at two Nazi-operated concentration camps was deported yesterday to Austria, the Department of Justice announced.

Ferdinand Hammer, 78, a retired foundry supervisor, formerly of Sterling Heights, Michigan, was ordered deported by the Chief United States Immigration Judge in 1997 on the ground that, from 1944 through the end of the war, he 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 immigration court cited captured Nazi documents, which showed that Hammer also guarded prisoners on transports between concentration camps during the winter of 1945, as the Nazis evacuated the camps to escape the advancing Soviet Army. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the deportation order in November 1999. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Hammer's request for review on February 28, 2000.

Hammer was previously stripped of his naturalized U.S. citizenship in 1996 by the United States District Court in Detroit, on the ground that he misrepresented his service as an armed SS guard when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1963. "The removal of this former concentration camp guard sends a message that the United States will continue to deny sanctuary to those who helped the Nazis carry out their program of brutality and murder," said OSI Director Eli M. Rosenbaum.

The Auschwitz death camp, where Hammer served, 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 the Sachsenhausen camp. Many prisoners died during the evacuation, often from exposure. The subsequent transports out of Sachsenhausen were conducted under similarly brutal conditions, and many people died as a result.

During Hammer's service as an armed SS guard at 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 found that "[o]ver one million people were murdered based solely on their religion or ethnicity at the concentration camps where Hammer stood guard."

Hammer did not disclose his concentration camp guard service to U.S. immigration officials when he entered the United States from Austria in 1955. The immigration court initially ordered Hammer deported to Croatia, because that country now has jurisdiction over Hammer's place of birth, which was formerly in Yugoslavia. Croatia refused to readmit Hammer. The country of deportation was changed to Austria because, under the terms of Hammer's entry visa, Austria had agreed to readmit him if it was later determined that he obtained the visa by means of fraud.

The case against Hammer was brought by the Criminal Division's Office of Special Investigations (OSI). 63 persons have now been stripped of U.S. citizenship and 53 have been removed from the United States as a result of cases brought by OSI since the unit's creation in 1979.