Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Federal District Court Judges Strip U.S. Citizenship from Two Men Accused of War Crimes

March 19, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Federal district court judges in Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale, Fla: yesterday stripped U.S. citizenship from two Ukrainian-born men who had lied about their participation in Nazi concentration camps during World War II in order to gain admission into the United States.

In the U.S. District Court here, Judge Louis Bechtle ordered that Wolodymir Osidach, a 76-year-old retired Philadelphia slaughterhouse worker, be denaturalized. In Fort Lauderdale, Judge Norman Roettget issued a denaturalization order for Feodor Fedorenko, 73, of Miami, who was accused of concealing his role as a Ukrainian guard in the Treblinka concentration camp.

Roettget yesterday reversed his 1978 ruling in favor of Federenko following a 7-2 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 21 that the government only had to prove that Federenko had lied about his past when he entered the U.S. in 1949 and did not need to prove that he had participated in the beating and shooting of Jewish prisoners.

In the Philadelphia case, Osidach was tried in a non-jury civil action here last fall. He was accused of concealing his role as an officer in the Ukrainian police force, a force which actively helped the Nazis send Jews to their deaths, in order to enter this country in 1949 and later to obtain citizenship.


“We are very, very pleased with the decision,” said Neal Sher, deputy director of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special investigations who prosecuted this case, according to a report by David Gross, news editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

Sher noted that the Osidach case was the first such case his department had handled from the very start. “Once Judge Bechtle’s opinion is final, once the defense has exhausted its appeals, we will move to have Osidach deported,” he said.

Osidach will certainly appeal the decision, defense attorney Louis Konowal indicated. “What the court did was to attempt to justify the government’s prosecution and substantial expenditure of money by ordering denaturalization of Mr. Osidach on some vague theory which took the court in excess of 110 pages to bootstrap and justify,” Konowal said in a prepared statement. “The court’s conclusion is clearly erroneous.”


The defense attorney warned that this decision, along with the Supreme Court decision on Federenko, should serve “notice” on “Jews and gentiles alike, who were in the unfortunate predicament of attempting to survive under Hitler’s occupation of their homeland that they are subject to denaturalization and deportation solely because of their either active or passive involvement in any organization, either voluntarily or even as a member of an underground organization.”

Osidach, like Federenko, entered this country under the Displaced Persons Act. He swore at the time that he had worked as a dairy technician in the Ukrainian village of Rawa Ruska during World War II. Later he admitted to having been a member of the Ukrainian police. He insisted, however, that his only function had been that of an interpreter.


In his written opinion, Judge Bechtle said that the evidence presented at the trial proved that Osidach was a police officer who commanded other police officers in the Nazi-led and Nazi-organized Ukrainian police force. “The court finds here that Osidach’s role as fulltime, paid and armed interpreter for both the German gendarmes and the Ukrainian police made him a necessary link between the Germans and the objects of their persecutions — the Jews in the town of Rawa Ruska,” Bechtle wrote.

The judge also concluded that Osidach’s role “constituted participation in acts of mental persecution against civilians in that town.”

During the course of the trial eyewitness testimony by Holocaust survivors showed that Ukrainian police helped the Nazis guard Jewish slave laborers round up thousands of Jews from the Rawa Ruska ghetto and march them to the train station where they were sent to the death camp, Belzec, some 20 miles away.

Osidach, during the trial, insisted that the Ukrainian police did no such things. “We had nothing to do with the Jews,” he testified. Bechtle, however, decided that Osidach’s testimony was “not credible or believeable and is totally contrary to substantial and credible eyewitness testimony.”

Recommended from JTA