NEW YORK (Sep. 12)
Within a period of five days last week, U.S. officials thwarted the attempted entry into this country of three men suspected of having been SS guards at concentration camps during World War II.
The men, who tried to enter the United States at three separate points, were not working together.
Neal Sher, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which prosecutes Nazi war criminals, said the occurrence of three attempts in one week is unusual.
The men were stopped by officials of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, who saw their names on the Justice Department’s “Watch List” of undesirable aliens suspected of war crimes.
The border guards contacted OSI, according to standing instructions, and were told to look for the telltale blood-type tattoo that SS guards had in their left armpits, Two of the men, who are German citizens, were found with the tattoos.
Gustav Raasch, who acknowledged having served as a guard at Majdanek, in Lublin, Poland, tried to enter in Houston after flying there from London. He was returned to England.
Hans Weinem, who was allegedly a guard at Auschwitz, tried to enter in Miami after a flight from Frankfurt. He, too, was sent back.
The third man, Eduards Podins, a Canadian resident, was detected in Vancouver by INS officials on the Canadian side of the border. They stopped him before he could board a plane to Hawaii. Podins is said to have been an SS guard at the Valmiera concentration camp in Latvia.
The men are not known to have been charged anywhere with war crimes, said Sher, but the OSI has now provided all known information to Canada and will be informing the Germans.
COOPERATION IN EASTERN EUROPE
Sher said the number of suspected war criminals trying to enter the country has increased in the last two years, because residents of several European countries, including West Germany, are no longer required to have tourist visas to enter the United States.
An average of six to eight alleged Nazi war criminals per month have tried to come into the United States in the last two years, Sher said.
But he does not think former Nazis believe it is now easier to enter this country than before.
“I think the word has gotten out that if someone has a Nazi background, they will be stopped,” Sher said. “The clear message is that Nazis come to the United States at their own risk, and we are going to vigorously enforce” laws barring them from entering the country.
Meanwhile, OSI has been reaping a reward of information on war criminals since democratization swept over Eastern Europe.
Of particular note has been the cooperation from East Germany. “This summer we sent over five people to scour the records, and they came back with 6,000 names,” Sher said, adding that OSI also has four researchers in Czechoslovakia.
“We’re very optimistic that at a minimum we are going to have many more names to put on the Watch List,” Sher said. “We’ve gotten the names of thousands of camp guards, to see if they are living here.”