FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, JANUARY 8, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
COURT OF APPEALS AFFIRMS REVOCATION OF U.S. CITIZENSHIP
OF FORMER NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP GUARD
WASHINGTON, DC -- The Department of Justice announced today that the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit yesterday affirmed the July 2000 decision of the United States District Court in Philadelphia, revoking the U.S. citizenship of Theodor Szehinskyj, 77, of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, a retired machinist who served during World War II as an armed guard at the Sachsenhausen, Gross-Rosen and Warsaw Concentration Camps.
Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, writing for a unanimous court, began the Court's opinion by observing that "Appellant Theodor Szehinskyj participated in what has accurately been described as the Third Reich's 'closed culture of murder' which saw millions of victims die in the Holocaust, the 'greatest moral catastrophe of our civilization.'" The Court ruled that this participation had been proved "beyond any question" by "powerful" captured Nazi documents found in archives in three different countries and corroborated by Szehinskyj's own alibi witness. The Court noted that the trial judge found Szehinsky's testimony, in which he denied ever serving at any of the concentration camps, "incredible."
Michael Chertoff, Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, said today, "The Justice Department's continuing determination to track down those who participated in the Nazi regime's reign of terror should also serve as a warning to modern-day perpetrators of mass murder that they will be pursued as long as it takes to bring them to the bar of justice."
"The Court's decision shows once again that this nation's memory of the terrible suffering of the victims of the Holocaust can still inspire effective law enforcement action," said Eli M. Rosenbaum, Director of the Criminal Division's Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which prosecuted the case.
The Court of Appeals upheld the District Court's finding that Szehinskyj's World War II service in the SS Death's Head Guard Battalions as an armed guard of civilian prisoners at the Sachsenhausen, Gross-Rosen and Warsaw Concentration Camps constituted assistance in Nazi-sponsored persecution.
The Court of Appeals stated that the District Court, in "a comprehensive opinion" by Judge Stewart Dalzell, summarized the evidence presented at trial as, "graphically describing the 'horrifyingly clear picture of life in the concentration camps' in which Szehinskyj was shown to have served and the survivors' 'vivid living testimony of what a nightmare a prisoner's daily life was' in those camps -- camps which were a 'thoroughly considered, meticulously organized enterprise of state-sponsored murder.'"The case was brought by OSI with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia. To date, 66 Nazi persecutors have been stripped of U.S. citizenship and 54 have been removed from the United States since OSI began operations in 1979. Nearly 200 persons are currently under investigation by OSI.