As U.S. authorities continue a long legal battle to deport a former Nazi concentration-camp guard, it’s not clear what will happen next if they prevail.
Anton Geiser, now 88, has been living in Sharon, Pa., for more than 50 years. He didn’t even tell his family about the Nazi service until 2004, when the Justice Department began legal proceedings.
Geiser’s lawyer will be appealing a deportation order Thursday before the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, Va.
“We hope that he is deported,” said Joy Braunstein, director of the Holocaust Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
But Kurt Schrimm, the head of the special prosecutors’ office in Germany that investigates Nazi war crimes, said they aren’t investigating Geiser’s case, and the Austrian Justice Ministry said it hasn’t corresponded with American authorities.
Geiser says he was forced to join the SS at age 17, in 1942, and that he never killed anyone. And thought he served as a guard at the Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald concentration camps, he didn’t serve at so-called death camps, such as Treblinka and Auschwitz-Birkenau, which existed only to exterminate people.
The details may be irrelevant to most people, but in past cases, prosecutors mentioned death-camp service, noting the prisoners there had no option other than death. In the case of Johann Breyer of Philadelphia, another accused former Nazi guard, a judge allowed him to stay in the U.S. reasoning in part that because Breyer had joined the SS at age 17, he couldn’t be held responsible for what he did as a minor.
Federal prosecutors, however, say that even if Anton Geiser didn’t kill anyone, his work as a concentration-camp guard makes him a party to the persecution of countless men, women and children, no matter how long ago that happened.
Geiser escorted prisoners to slave- labor sites and was under orders to shoot any prisoners who tried to escape. Both sides agree that Geiser guarded only the perimeter of the camps, but previous court rulings have found that doing so is enough to make someone ineligible for U.S. citizenship.
Geiser told prosecutors he was ashamed of his work as a camp guard. “I was not proud where I served, and I didn’t like it then and I didn’t like it now,” he said.
A federal judge in Pittsburgh revoked Geiser’s citizenship in 2006, and another judge ordered him deported in 2010. Geiser is fighting that order. He lost a circuit-court appeal in 2008, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case in 2009. In 2010 an immigration judge ordered him deported to Austria or any other country that will take him.
Geiser came to the U.S. in 1956 and settled in the small town of Sharon. He became a citizen in 1962, worked in a steel mill for decades and raised five children.
The Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to a question about whether the country would accept Geiser.