LOS ANGELES (Oct. 5)
A U.S. immigration judge has ordered the deportation of Josef Eckert for concealing his service as an SS guard at Auschwitz when he entered the United States in 1956.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, Eckert, now 74, was a member of the Totenkopf-Sturmbann (Death’s Head Battalion), a unit notorious for its brutality, even by SS standards. Between 1943 and 1945, he “assisted or otherwise participated in the persecution” of Auschwitz inmates, according to documentation obtained by the department’s Office of Special Investigations.
Eckert eventually admitted under oath that he served at Auschwitz. The OSI found Eckert as part of its ongoing program of comparing SS personnel rosters with U.S. personnel rosters. The agency has compared tens of thousands of names on the two lists. Eckert’s name came back as a match.
Eckert, a retired Los Angeles factory worker and an ethnic German native of a part of Austro-Hungary that is now Yugoslavia, has asked that he be deported to Austria. This despite the fact that the Austrian government put him on a wanted list in 1960 on charges of “murder in the concentration camp Auschwitz.”
Authorities in Vienna did not know of Eckert’s whereabouts until the deportation proceedings initiated against him in late December were publicized, according to Ulf Pacher of the Austrian Consulate in Los Angeles.
Eckert’s next step is application for an emigrant visa to Austria. An OSI spokesman said Wednesday that the Austrians are under legal obligation to give him a visa, because of an agreement between the United States and Austria dating to the 1950s.
Under the accord, Austria promised to accept the return of those natives who immigrate to the United States by fraudulent means. Eckert has admitted lying his way into the United States, the OSI official said.
(JTA staff writer Susan Birnbaum in New York contributed to this report.)