PENNSYLVANIA Deport alleged ex-Nazi, U.S. says
The local Jewish community appears to be taking a wait-and-see attitude.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
SHARON, Pa. -- The Simon Wiesenthal Center praised U.S. Department of Justice action against Anton Geiser of Cedar Avenue, alleged to be a former Nazi SS concentration camp guard.
The Justice Department filed action Monday in federal court in Pittsburgh asking that the citizenship of the 79-year-old retired Sharon Steel employee be revoked and that he be deported, claiming that he participated in Nazi-sponsored acts of persecution against civilians during World War II.
"We applaud the action," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los-Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization that, among educational and other activities, also is involved in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.
"This case fits the profile of a typical Nazi war criminal," Cooper said Tuesday.
Taking a stand
The average person finally tracked down as a war criminal usually has never received a traffic ticket and is regarded as a nice person by their neighbors. They are aging and some people ask, why bother prosecuting them now, he said.
The answer is that such individuals volunteered as a "foot soldier for genocide," Cooper said, noting members of the Nazi Waffen SS put on that uniform for systematic torture and murder.
Civilized nations must take a stand, he said.
Geiser hasn't made any public comment on the case and calls to his home are being referred to Atty. Jay Reisinger in Pittsburgh. Reisinger's office said he would be issuing a statement on the case this week.
A Justice Department statement announcing the action taken against Geiser cautioned that the complaint contains only allegations and that it will be up to the government to prove they are true.
The case filed against Geiser claims that he was an armed guard in the SS Death's Head Battalion at the Sachsenhausen concentration Camp near Berlin from January 1943 to November 1943, when he was transferred to the Buchenwald camp.
Under the law, people in that capacity were ineligible to obtain immigrant visas to come to the United States and they face loss of citizenship and deportation, according to the Justice Department.
Cooper said 200,000 people were murdered in those two camps and satellite operations during World War II.
It isn't unusual for the search for war criminals to take many decades, Cooper said, noting that the effort to find them took a back seat to the Cold War when no country wanted to do anything about finding them. That changed with the passage of the Holtzman Amendment in 1978 that altered U.S. immigration laws to allow the deportation of anyone who participated in or assisted Nazi acts of persecution.
The Justice Department said the case against Geiser is part of its Office of Special Investigations' ongoing efforts to identify, investigate and take legal action against former participants in Nazi persecution who now live in the United States.
Cooper said much of the work tracking down suspected war criminals involves meticulous cross-referencing of old German and U.S. immigration files.
He said it is his understanding that Geiser slightly changed the spelling of his last name by switching a letter or two, which could have impeded a search.
Many of those found didn't change their names and got into the United States by claiming they were fleeing communism in Europe and faced being jailed or executed if they returned home, Cooper said.
Their name would appear in their government's documents and was their ticket of entry to the United States. They told their stories to immigration officials, leaving out the important chapter of their involvement in the Nazi persecutions, he said. Frequently, they came to the United States on the very same boats carrying their victims, he said.
The local Jewish community appears to be taking a wait-and-see attitude about the case.
Randy Bress, president of Temple Beth Israel in Sharon, said Tuesday there hadn't been much of a public reaction from the Jewish community. However, he said should the allegations be true, Geiser "should be held accountable for his actions." That means losing his citizenship, Bress said.
Some of Geiser's neighbors have taken a stand in his defense, referring to him, his wife and three sons as kind and nice people who frequently lent a hand to their neighbors.
"I just don't believe it. I don't believe it for a minute," said Diane Dach, who has lived near the Geisers for most of her 53 years and considers them family.
The neighbors are supporting the Geisers and don't believe the allegations, she said.