NEW YORK (Sep. 21)
The U.S. Justice Department has filed suits to revoke the citizenship of two men accused of war crimes in Lithuania during World War II.
One of the men, Aleksandras Lileikis of Norwood, Mass., is accused of having been the chief of the Lithuanian version of the Gestapo, which was responsible for particularly brutal atrocities against Jews and others during World War II.
The case against Lileikis, a 87-year-old retired publishing employee, is being heralded as one of the most important cases the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations has ever prosecuted.
The case cites documents with Lileikis’ name ordering the arrest and transport of thousands of Jews to their execution.
The other man charged, Juozas Budreika, a 77-year-old retired cook living in Gulfport, Fla., is accused of participating in Nazi-sponsored acts of persecution while serving in the Lithuanian Schutzmannschaft (Protective Detachment) during World War II.
The case against Budreika was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tampa, Fla., by OSI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa. It alleges that Budreika, who is also known as Joseph Budreika, joined the Schutzmannschaft in August 1941.
The government complaint charges that Budreika gave false testimony and willfully concealed his wartime service when applying to immigrate to the United States in 1958 and when he applied to become a U.S. citizen in 1967.
The battalion Budreika allegedly joined, known as the 2nd/12th Battalion, was armed, sponsored and controlled by Nazi Germany. In 1941 and 1942, this battalion murdered thousands of unarmed Jews and other civilians in Lithuania and Byelorussia (now called Belarus) because of their race, religion, political beliefs or national origin.
The Massachusetts man, Lileikis, is “the first Lithuanian police official ever prosecuted in connection with crimes of the Nazi period,” Eli Rosenbaum, acting director of the OSI, said in a telephone interview Wednesday morning.
‘ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT NAZI CASES’
He described the case as “one of the most important Nazi cases brought anywhere in the world in recent history.”
The suit against Lileikis, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston on Wednesday by OSI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in that city, charges that Lileikis was chief of the Lithuanian Security Police, known as the Saugumas, for the entire Vilnius Province during the German occupation.
The government complaint against Lileikis alleges that from August 1941 until the German occupation ended in July 1944, Lileikis directed his force to seek and arrest Jews, particularly those who escaped or attempted to escape the ghettos.
The case is supported by captured wartime records that have been preserved at the Lithuanian State Archives.
Records quoted in the complaint against Lileikis show that he repeatedly issued orders directing that Jews who were arrested be held at the Vilnius Hard Labor Prison, known as the Lukiski Prison, and then be executed by either the German Security Police or the “Special Detachment,” a killing squad.
Most of these victims were executed by gunfire at pits dug in the nearby Ponary forest.
At least 40,000 Jews were shot to death at this site, including a 6-year-old girl, Fruma Kaplan.
Rosenbaum expressed gratitude to the Lithuanian government for its help in pursuing the case against Lileikis.
“The free access we were granted to Lithuanian archives proved decisive in the development of this important case,” Rosenbaum said.
“The story of what happened to little Fruma Kaplan and countless other Jews who vanished from the face of the Earth there is told in documents — specifically, in orders signed and issued by Aleksandras Lileikis,” Rosenbaum said.
Lileikis reportedly has denied the charges, telling the media on Wednesday that he had nothing to do with the Jews.
Since OSI began operations in 1979, 50 Nazi persecutors have been stripped of their U.S. citizenship, and 42 of these have been removed from the United States.
OSI is currently investigating more than 300 persons, Rosenbaum said.