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U.S. Begins Denaturalization Action Against Alleged Death Camp Guards

The Justice Department initiated denaturalization proceedings last week against three men it charges with concealing their war crimes — serving as guards at Mauthausen concentration camp and voluntarily joining the SS — upon applying for United States citizenship.

The three men are all alleged to have served as guards in the Mauthausen concentration camp system in Austria and with having voluntarily joined the Death’s Head Battalion of the Nazi SS. All three have refused comment on the charges.

They are: Martin Bartesch of Chicago, 59, whose original nationality was variously given by Justice Department officials as Rumanian and Hungarian; Stefan Leili of Clifton, N.J., 76, a Rumanian by birth; and Josef Wieland of Burlingame, Calif., 77, a native of Yugoslavia. Leili has hired an attorney to defend him.

PROCESS TO TAKE SEVERAL YEARS

The Justice Department said prosecutors had not decided which countries the men would go to if deported. The deportation hearings follow the denaturalization proceedings, a process which, officials said, could take several years.

The Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which has begun denaturalization proceedings against more than 50 persons accused of being war criminals over the past few years, said it began checking on the three men after law-enforcement agents found incriminating documents involving Mauthausen in foreign archives.

OSI director Neal Sher said the Justice Department was continuing its investigation of other men whom it also believes were Mauthausen guards and are now living in the U.S. Other cases might be initiated, he said.

The complaints said Bartesch was an armed guard there from October 1943 until July 1944; Leili from December 1943 to July 1944; and Wieland from November 1943 to July 1944. The three men, the Justice Department documents stated, had “participated in and personally assisted the Nazi program of persecution based on race, religion, national origin and political belief… (which) included the confinement, corporal punishment, torture, forced labor and murder of thousands of prisoners.”

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