BOSTON (Jul. 3)
A U.S. immigration judge has ruled that Albert Ensin, a member of the SS Death’s Head Battalion who served at Auschwitz from December 1941 to July 1943, need not be deported and may remain at his home in Stoughton, Mass.
Although Ensin confessed to being a “perimeter guard” at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Judge Annette Elstein had ordered him deported, the order was suspended last week after a doctor told the judge that moving Ensin could be life-threatening.
The 68-year-old Ensin has had three strokes and kidney failure, and requires a dialysis machine. He is a native of Lithuania and has never become a U.S. citizen.
Joseph O’Neil, Ensin’s lawyer, said he is pleased with the verdict. “Ensin did not participate in the persecutions,” O’Neil asserted. “He was a perimeter guard — he guarded the entrance and exit (of the camp). But current immigration law sweeps broadly, and says someone is deportable for assisting in persecutions just because they were in the environs of the camp.”
Asked if being a perimeter guard meant Ensin would have shot people who tried to escape the camp, O’Neil replied. “That never happened.”
“That’s bunk,” said Allan Ryan Jr., director of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations from 1980-83.
Ryan, author of “Quiet Neighbors” — a term which precisely fits the descriptions of Ensin by Stoughton residents who knew him — is now serving as general counsel at Harvard University.
“Perimeter guard is a common defense,” Ryan said. “It’s like the bakery defense — ‘I was only baking bread in the bakery at Auschwitz.’ We heard that a lot.
“But there is no such thing as a passive observer at Auschwitz-Birkenau,” he said. “If you were stationed there, you were part of the process of murder.”
“People like Ensin say that they were just doing their duty, that if they had refused they would have been shot. That’s crap. Soldiers who didn’t want to be (concentration camp) guards were sent off to the front. Nobody was shooting at the soldiers who were camp guards, so their life expectancy was longer than it would have been at the Russian front.”
Eli Rosenbaum, OSI’s deputy director, agreed that perimeter guards, by stopping prisoners from escaping, were accomplices in murder.
But he defended the court’s decision, saying that an OSI doctor “agreed fully” with the ruling that moving Ensin would be life-threatening.
He also defended OSI’s decision not to seek deportation at a future date. Ensin “has had a series of strokes,” Rosenbaum added.
Rosenbaum said he has “no sympathy” for Ensin, but that he is entitled to due process. “This is constitutional law,” he added. “This is one of the things that separates us from the Nazis.”
(JTA correspondent Howard Rosenberg in Washington contributed to this report.)