josias kumpf 248 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
A man who participated in the massacre of 8,000 Jews during World War II has been deported to Austria, the US Justice Department announced Thursday.
Austria does not want him in the country and is trying to send him on to Poland, an Austrian embassy official told The Jerusalem Post, but said he would not be able to be prosecuted in either country due to the statute of limitations.
Josias Kumpf, 83, had been living in Wisconsin when he was stripped of his American citizenship and designated for deportation for having served as an armed SS Death's Head guard at the Nazi-run Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Germany and at the Trawniki Labor Camp in Poland.
While at Trawniki, Kumpf was found to have participated in a mass shooting of 8,000 Jewish men, women and children in 1943. He had been given the task of watching for victims who were still "halfway alive" or "convulsing," and preventing their escape. He stated his job had been to "shoot them to kill" if necessary, according to Justice Department records.
"Josias Kumpf, by his own admission, stood guard with orders to shoot any surviving prisoners who attempted to escape an SS massacre that left thousands of Jews dead," said Acting Assistant Attorney-General Rita Glavin, who stressed America's "long-running effort to ensure that individuals who participated in crimes against humanity do not find sanctuary in this country."
Though found in 2005 to have lied on immigration forms from the 1950s asking about his participation in Nazi activities, Kumpf's appeals were finally exhausted only in June of last year. It took until now for the US to identify a country that would accept him and to make arrangements for his return. He arrived in Austria on Thursday.
A similar process has long been under way for John Demjanjuk, who lost his final appeal to the Supreme Court last year to avoid deportation for having lied about his role as a Nazi guard. The US had not succeeded in finding a country willing to take him until Germany filed a warrant for his arrest last week as an accessory to the murder of 29,000 people.
The Justice Department and German officials are currently in discussions about how and when to remove him to stand trial in Germany, and a decision could be made at any time.
In addition to deportation, the Germans could also request Demjanjuk through its current extradition treaty with the US, but that could subject the process to further delay as Demjanjuk would have legal recourses not available under the deportation process. His relatives have also tried to make the case that the 88-year-old retired Ohio autoworker is too sick to travel.
Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi hunter with Jerusalem's Simon Wiesenthal Center, urged the quickest possible transfer to German authorities so proceedings could begin against him.
Still, Zuroff said that his fate would likely be harsher than that awaiting Kumpf, as he blasted Austria for not doing more to prosecute former Nazis.
"The Austrians have a horrendous record in which not a single Nazi war criminal has been successfully prosecuted in more than three decades - and believe me, it's not for lack of Nazis," he charged.
The Austrian embassy official in Washington noted the despicable nature of Kumpf's crimes, but said that "he can't be prosecuted in Austria because whatever he's done was done too long ago."
Zuroff praised the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, which was established in 1979 to track down Nazi war criminals on US territory, as being a "beacon of light in a relatively dark landscape."
By its own count, the OSI has won 107 cases against Nazi war criminals since its creation, and more than 180 individuals have been kept out of the country because of its "Watch List" program.
"The removal of Josias Kumpf to Austria has achieved a significant measure of justice on behalf of the victims of Nazi inhumanity, and it reflects the unswerving commitment of the US government to continuing that quest for justice," said OSI director Eli Rosenbaum.