A former resident of Florida who was a member of a Lithuanian killing unit during World War II was deported Tuesday to Lithuania.
The expulsion of Antanas Mineikis was carried out in accordance with a deportation order issued in August against the former resident of Gulfport, near St. Petersburg. His U.S. citizenship had been revoked in January by the U.S. District Court in Tampa.
Mineikis arrived Wednesday in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, the U.S. Justice Department reported.
The action marks the first time that a person stripped of U.S. citizenship for concealing Nazi-related activities has been deported to independent Lithuania.
In early August, the Justice Department signed an agreement with the Lithuanian government providing for mutual cooperation in Nazi cases. This is the first law-enforcement agreement signed between the newly independent Baltic state and the United States since World War II.
The agreement provides for cooperation in uncovering evidence on people involved in war crimes, said Victor Nakas, press officer of the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington.
Mineikis, 74, a retired motel owner, admitted taking part in Nazi-sponsored acts of persecution. In a sworn statement, he confessed to his involvement in acts of persecution while a member of the 12th Lithuanian Auxiliary Police Service Battalion.
He admitted that on “about six” occasions, he had been “ordered to drive a truck to where the people were and transport them to the place where they were shot.” And he said he remained at the killing sites to observe some of the murders.
The Lithuanian Auxiliary Police were armed battalions deployed by the Nazis in killing operations in Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Poland, mostly from 1941 to 1942.
It remains unclear whether Mineikis will be tried in Lithuania for his wartime activities.
“If the evidence is there, there will be a criminal trial,” said Nakas of the Lithuanian Embassy.
Lithuanian Ambassador Stasys Lozoraitis told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “We are sending all the documents we have received from the Office of Special Investigations of the Justice Department, and the procurator general will start immediately proceedings to establish his culpability.”
He emphasized that Lithuania has no statute of limitations on genocide. “Therefore from that point of view, there are no dangers that this thing will be stopped,” he said.
He then added, “I would like to point out that we absolutely want to cooperate in these cases, because our laws have expressed a desire of the Lithuanian people that all those who are guilty be punished.”
The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday sent a letter to Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis urging him to “take whatever measures are necessary” to ensure that Mineikis is brought to justice.
“As one who has survived the Holocaust in your capital city of Vilnius, this has particular personal interest for me,” wrote Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director.
At this time last year, the Jewish community was up in arms over reports that the newly independent Lithuanian government had been issuing pardons to thousands of Lithuanian war criminals.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which was instrumental in unearthing this information last year, expressed satisfaction with Tuesday’s deportation, but pointed out the irony of sending a Nazi war criminal to a country that had been pardoning them.
“We hope that this signals that the Lithuanians will be moving strongly against all those who participated in Nazi actions,” said Mark Weitzman, associate director for educational outreach at the Wiesenthal Center in New York.