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Court Ruling Brings Lithuanian One Step Closer to Deportation

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia has upheld a ruling that Jonas Stelmokas entered the United States illegally by concealing his involvement in a Nazi-sponsored Lithuanian battalion during World War II.

The ruling affirms the 1995 revocation of Stelmokas’ U.S. citizenship and places him one step closer to deportation, said Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Office of Special Investigations, the Nazi-hunting arm of the U.S. Justice Department.

“We’ve gotten over another hurdle,” Rosenbaum said in an interview last week.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, which is based in Philadelphia, last week upheld in a 2-1 decision a U.S. District Court ruling to strip Stelmokas of his American citizenship.

Stelmokas has two more opportunities to appeal, Rosenbaum added.

The appeals court upheld Nov. 12 that Stelmokas, 80, a retired architect in Lansdowne, Pa., hid his wartime past when he came to the United States as a refugee in 1949. He was made a naturalized citizen in 1955.

According to the court, Stelmokas voluntarily joined a Nazi-sponsored battalion that assisted in rounding up and killing Jews in Lithuania. He served as an officer in the battalion, known as the Schutzmannschaft. The group’s members swore allegiance to Adolf Hitler and were under control of German Einsatzgruppe A, a mobile killing unit.

The appeals court also upheld the finding 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.

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