A federal judge in Philadelphia has revoked the citizenship of Jonas Stelmokas, an officer in a Nazi-sponsored Lithuanian battalion that assisted in destroying the Jews of that country during World War II.
The U.S. District Court stripped Stelmokas, 78, of his citizenship because when he came of this country in 1949, he concealed his involvement with the notorious battalion. The court said his 1955 naturalization as a U.S. citizen was “illegally procured.”
Judge Jan E. DuBoise found that Stelmokas, a retired architect living in Philadelphia, voluntarily joined the 3rd Lithuanian Protective Detachment Battalion in July 1941, shortly after the German invasion of Lithuania. He served in the unit, known as the Schutzmannschaft, until he was transferred to the Luftwaffe in August 1994.
The Battalion, whose members swore allegiance to Adolf Hitler, was under control of German Einsatzgruppe A, a mobile killing unit.
The decision is “an important victory in the government’s comprehensive effort to identify and take legal action against those who helped realize Adolf Hitler’s genocidal ambitions,” said Eli M. Rosenbaum, director of the Office of Special Investigations, the Nazi-hunting arm of the U.S. Justice Department.
The OSI has successfully obtained the denaturalization of 52 Nazis and deported 44 of them from the United States.
The Stelmokas case is the first Nazi trial in the United States to make use of the “treasure trove” of Nazi documents in the former Soviet Union that became available to Western investigators because of the collapse of Communist rule in Eastern Europe, Rosenbaum added.
DuBoise also found that Stelmokas was commander of the detachment guarding the Jewish ghetto in Kanunas, Lithuania, at a time that Jews confined in the ghetto “were subject to extreme deprivation, brutality and arbitrary shooting” and that Stelmokas was “responsible for enforcing the confinement of Jews in such conditions.”
In addition, the judge found that Stelmokas was on duty when his entire battalion took part in the so-called Grosse Aktion, or Great Action, in which Nazi documents record that more than 9,000 Jews in the Kaunas ghetto were methodically killed in a 24-hour period. The “action” was the largest single act of mass murder in Lithuania during World War II.