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WASHINGTON D.C. -- Christopher A. Wray, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, today announced that a former member of a Nazi mobile killing squad has departed the United States and returned to his native Lithuania.

Vytautas Gecas, 81, formerly of Chicago, Ill. and Sunny Hills, Fla., departed the United States after the Criminal Division’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) initiated deportation proceedings against him based on his activities during World War II.. The defendant arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania on August 31, 2003.

OSI charged that Gecas served in the infamous Nazi-sponsored 2nd/12th Lithuanian Schutzmannschaft Battalion, initially based in Kaunas, Lithuania. In October 1941, the Battalion was deployed to Minsk, Byelorussia (now Belarus) under the command of German police officials. During October and November of 1941, the Battalion actively participated in the slaughter of over 19,000 innocent men, women and children in Minsk and other Byelorussian cities and towns.

In February 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals, affirmed an order in a case involving a defendant who also served in the 2nd/12th Battalion, U.S. v. Juozas Naujalis. The Court noted that Battalion members surrounded villages, rousted victims from their homes and workplaces, marched them to killing pits, forced them to undress, and then shot them.

Gecas admitted during deportation proceedings that he served in the Battalion during the fall of 1941, when it engaged in numerous killing actions in Byelorussia. In agreeing to leave the United States, Gecas relinquished any right he might have to reside in this country, and he agreed never to attempt to reenter the United States.

Gecas entered the U.S. in 1962, using a visa he obtained in England, where he had lived for 15 years after the war. He never became a U.S. citizen. He lived in Chicago, then moved to Sunny Hills, in the Florida Panhandle. In May 1999, the U.S. District Court in Pensacola found Gecas in contempt for refusing to answer questions about his wartime activities. He was jailed for 18 months for refusing to answer questions. After his release, OSI filed charges against him seeking his deportation.

OSI Director Eli M. Rosenbaum said, “The departure of Vytautas Gecas from this country is another important step in the Justice Department’s continuing efforts to deny sanctuary in the United States to those who participated in the perpetration of Nazi crimes.” Rosenbaum noted that Heinrich Carl, a German District Commissioner in Byelorussia, had complained to other Nazi officials, in a secret 1941 memo later used at the post-war Nuremberg Trials, about what he termed the “indescribable brutality” of the Schutzmannschaft unit that, he wrote, “bordered on sadism.”

The case against Gecas is the ninth successful OSI prosecution of a former member of the 2nd/12th Battalion.

The proceedings against the defendant are a result of OSI's ongoing efforts to identify and take legal action against individuals residing in the United States who at one time participated in Nazi crimes.

Since OSI began operations in 1979, 72 Nazi persecutors have been stripped of U.S. citizenship and 58 have been removed from the United States. Also, more than 160 suspected Nazi persecutors have been barred from entering this country under OSI’s “Watch List” border control program, including two in recent weeks.