Menu JTA Search

Osi Official Killed in Plane Crash Secured Deportation of War Criminal

Among the victims of Wednesday’s Pan Am Flight 103 disaster was an assistant deputy director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, who had just concluded talks with Austria on the subject of deporting Nazi war criminals from the United States to Austria.

Michael Bernstein, 36, was responsible in OSI for supervising the investigation and litigation of hundreds of cases of suspected Nazi war criminals living in the United States.

A fruit of Bernstein’s negotiations with the Austrians will be the deportation to a that country of Josef Eckert, an accused Nazi war criminal who was apprehended in Los Angeles a year ago.

Bernstein died exactly one year to the day that OSI filed the case against Eckert, 74, a native of Austria-Hungary who is accused of having participated, as an SS member, in war crimes at Auschwitz and two of its subcamps, Gleiwitz and Kattowitz, between 1943 and 1944.

Eckert, who is now living in Los Angeles, will be deported to Austria within the next several months, according to Eli Rosenbaum, deputy director of the OSI.

Eckert is not wanted by the Austrian authorities for anything at this time. But, said Rosenbaum, “we expect that the authorities will conduct a thorough investigation into Eckert’s background, and of course we will cooperate fully with them.”

Bernstein died carrying in his hand papers signed by the Austrians and the Americans agreeing to Eckert’s deportation.

Attorney General Richard Thornburgh ordered all flags on Justice Department buildings lowered to half mast last week.

Bernstein is survived by his mother, Janet; his wife, Stephanie; and his children, Sarah, 8, and Joseph, 5.

NEXT STORY