WASHINGTON (Aug. 26)
An American-born man who worked as a guard in three Nazi concentration camps has been stripped of his U.S. citizenship and now faces deportation proceedings.
If deported, he would become the first U.S.-born citizen to be removed from this country for war crimes.
Nikolaus Schiffer, 74, a native of Philadelphia, was denaturalized on Wednesday for having lied about his wartime service at the Majdanek death camp in Poland, the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany and Hersbrouck, a subcamp of the Flossenburg concentration camp, also in Germany.
Although 46 people to date have had their U.S. citizenship revoked for concealing their involvement in the Nazi persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, all have been foreign-born.
Schiffer’s attorney, William Jones, said he expected to appeal Wednesday’s ruling, according to a report in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Schiffer was not implicated in any specific crimes as an SS guard. But after hearing testimony from concentration camp survivors and others last March during a non-jury trial in Easton, Pa., U.S. District Judge Franklin Van Antwerpen ruled that Schiffer had illegally regained his U.S. citizenship by concealing his wartime service.
He originally lost his U.S. citizenship when he joined the Romanian army and the Nazi SS, and pledged allegiance to Adolf Hitler.
Schiffer, a retired baker who has been living in New Ringgold, a religious enclave in Pennsylvania, was born to ethnic German parents. As a child he was taken to Romania, where he grew up in Moravitza, an ethnic German town in Romania.
Schiffer maintained that he did nothing wrong, but the judge ruled this ludicrous.
“We find much of Schiffer’s testimony unbelievable,” Van Antwerpen wrote in an 82-page decision.
JUDGE SLAMS TESTIMONY OF CAMP GUARDS
In the ruling, the judge noted that although Schiffer had not been at the Trawniki, Poland, forced-labor camp in November 1943, when the Nazis massacred 6,000 Jews, he was there in January 1944, when Jewish prisoners were ordered to excavate the bodies of the slain Jews and burn them.
According to Schiffer’s testimony, he saw nothing, heard nothing and smelled nothing at the camp.
But the judge noted in a footnote to his ruling that “in general, the testimony of former concentration camp guards is notoriously unreliable.
“Former camp guards facing denaturalization frequently claim to have served involuntarily, to have been stationed only on the camp periphery, to have been unaware of any mistreatment or punishment of prisoners, to have seen nothing and heard nothing,” he wrote.
Schiffer must surrender his naturalization papers in 60 days, when the government could initiate deportation proceedings against him.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department and its Ukrainian counterpart have signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue Nazi war criminals.
The memorandum, signed by Deputy Attorney General Philip Heymann and Ukrainian Procurator General Victor Shishkin, provides for mutual “legal assistance in conducting investigations concerning individuals who are suspected of having committed Nazi war crimes or having assisted in the commission of such crimes.”
The agreement, which replaces one that was signed with the procurator general of the former Soviet Union in 1989, will allow the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations to conduct interviews and take witness testimony in Ukraine.