The Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations has begun proceedings to strip a southern California man of his U.S. citizenship for concealing his wartime service in the Nazi SS.
OSI filed a denaturalization complaint Thursday in Los Angeles against Johann Ziegler, 82, a native of Kuzura, now Yugoslavia, but at the time of his birth the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He now lives in the southern California desert town of Hemet.
Ziegler allegedly served as an SS guard at the concentration camp in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania, and at the Stutthof concentration camp and its slave-labor subcamp, Gotenhafen, near what was then Danzig, Germany, and is now Gdansk, Poland.
Neal Sher, director of OSI, said the complaint, filed with the help of the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, alleges that Ziegler wilfully concealed his service as an armed guard and his membership in the SS Death’s Head Battalion units at those camps when he applied to immigrate to the United States in 1953 and again when he applied in 1960 for U.S. citizenship.
Ziegler entered the United States from Vienna, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. He claimed at the time to have been a German soldier.
According to the complaint, Ziegler served at the three camps between November 1943 and March 1945, when thousands of prisoners died from executions and the rigors of slave labor under inhumane conditions.
The Stutthof camp had a small crematorium, according to Aaron Breitbart, senior research associate at the Wiesenthal Center.
The complaint alleges that Ziegler personally participated in the persecution of civilians on the basis of their race, religion, political opinion or national origin.
The U.S. government said Ziegler’s citizenship must be revoked because it was illegally obtained by misrepresentation of his wartime activities.
The complaint further alleges that Ziegler lacked the good moral character required of petitioners for U.S. citizenship.
Ziegler’s name came up on documents that disclose his service in the SS as part of ongoing OSI research efforts, said Sher.
To date, 32 Nazi war criminals have been stripped of their citizenship and 27 have been removed from the United States. OSI is currently investigating more than 600 persons for war crimes.
Ziegler has 60 days within which to answer the complaint.
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