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Jewish Kapo Loses Citizenship, but Won’t Be Deported Fron U.S.

February 7, 1988
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A 79-year-old Jew from Brooklyn, who confessed he collaborated with the Nazis and brutalized Jewish concentration camp inmates, was stripped of his American citizenship Thursday.

But the Brooklyn federal court at which he surrendered his citizenship decided not to deport him, because of his deteriorating health.

Jacob Tannenbaum admitted before federal judge Leo Glasser on Thursday that he had been a “lagerkapo” (inmate guard) at the Goerlitz concentration camp in Germany from September 1944 through May 1945.

The Polish-born Tannenbaum also admitted that he had beaten Jewish prisoners, even out of sight of Nazi guards and without their orders.

The decision not to deport Tannenbaum, who also admitted concealing his background upon entering the United States in 1949, was agreed upon between the prosecution and the defense after Tannenbaum agreed to the charges.

Tannenbaum, a retired dairy worker with three children, reportedly suffers from a heart condition and suffered a mild stroke in August. He lost his parents, five sisters, his first wife and their baby in the Holocaust. He was blinded in one eye by the Nazis, who sent him to three different concentration camps during the war.

Only three other Jews have been charged with war crimes in the United States, all in the 1950s. None was deported.

Two Jewish organizations welcomed then resolution dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, issued a statement Friday that noted “before Tannenbaum was a criminal, he was a victim. As a result, the degree of his culpability should never be confused with the Nazi war criminals.”

Cooper called the revocation of citizenship “an appropriate action from both a moral and legal point of view.”

Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said in a statement issued Thursday, “We feel that the Justice Department handled a very sensitive matter in a most fair and equitable way, insuring that justice was applied in a firm but proper manner.”

The U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations brought the charges against Tannenbaum. Neal Sher, OSI director, said the decision “was a fair resolution of the case.”

Tannenbaum’s lawyer, Elihu Massel, said: “It is the best solution for all concerned. It will avoid a truly ghastly trial, in which Jews would have to testify against Jews, none of whom really want to remember.”

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