MILWAUKEE (May. 21)
For the second time in six months, a Milwaukee-area man is being stripped of his U.S. citizenship for lying about his service as Nazi concentration camp guard.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Curran ruled last Friday that Anton Baumann, an 80-year-old retired carpenter from West Allis, Wis., had illegally concealed his service in the Death’s Head Batallion of the SS when he sought entry to the United States after World War II.
Curran ruled that Baumann would have been ineligible for a visa to enter the United States since he had “acquiesced in the Nazi persecutions” by serving as an armed guard at the Stutthof concentration camp in Poland and the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany.
Baumann also “lacked the statutorily required good moral character prerequisite to becoming a United States citizen,” Curran ruled.
The judge gave him 60 days to surrender his certificate of naturalization. Neither Baumann nor his attorney, David Cannon of Milwaukee, was available for comment.
The U.S. Justice Department will begin deportation proceedings against Baumann after he surrenders the certificate, explained Neil Sher, director of the department’s Office of Special Investigations, which prosecutes Nazi war criminals.
Anton Tittjung, 66, a resident of Greenfield, Wis., was denaturalized in a similar case last December. Tittjung is appealing the decision, with legal assistance from Cannon.
Baumann’s denaturalization hearing was held in federal court here Jan. 2 to 4.
OSI attorneys based their case on an SS personnel card, found in the Stutthof museum in Poland, which listed Baumann’s name, place and date of birth, wife’s maiden name, Yugoslav army service dates and ethnic background.
Baumann is listed as a “joiner,” meaning he volunteered for the SS.
PHOTO CONSIDERED SUFFICIENT PROOF
OSI also displayed a photograph in which Baumann is wearing a Death’s Head Batallion uniform.
Baumann’s attorney called no witnesses. He had agreed before the hearing not to contest the authenticity of the documents and photo.
No evidence was offered about Baumann’s duties as a concentration camp guard.
“The fact that these events occurred approximately a half-century ago makes such proof difficult if not impossible,” Judge Curran wrote.
But he noted that a U.S. court found recently that a concentration camp guard’s “armed, uniformed service is sufficient to establish that he assisted in persecution.”
Baumann, a short, frail-appearing man who walks with a limp and the support of a cane, attended parts of the hearing. He sat in the back of the courtroom with members of his family.
Curran asked in his decision whether the United States should “commit substantial resources, both financial and human, to revoke the citizenship of a young man who lied 41 years ago in order to start a new life in a new land.”
He noted that Baumann “has lived in the United States for over 40 years, has raised a family, and been a productive member of society.”
But the judge concluded that “Baumann entered the United States on an invalid visa and acquired that coveted citizenship unlawfully.”
In 1950, Baumann applied for a visa to enter the United States from the U.S. Consulate in Salzburg, Austria. He claimed in a sworn application that he resided in Yugoslavia from 1925 to 1944, Curran wrote.
In 1957, when Baumann applied for U.S. citizenship, he swore that he belonged to no “organizations, clubs or societies in the United States or any other country before the last 10 years,” Curran wrote.
Sher of OSI refused to comment on what he called Curran’s “wondering out loud” about the appropriateness of prosecuting Baumann.
“The important thing to focus on is that, from our perspective, he came down on the right side,” Sher said. “Obviously, Congress and this department think this is very important. We believe these people had no business coming here in the first place.”
Thomas Schneider, president of the Milwaukee Jewish Council, agreed that it is “absolutely important to continue going after these guys.”
“It’s troubling that so many people here in Milwaukee and around the world are so quick to say, ‘It happened so long ago. Why can’t we forget? Why dredge up all these painful memories?’” he said.
“That’s easy for them to say, because it wasn’t their relatives who were killed.”