holocaust memorial 224.8.
(photo credit: AP [file])
A former Nazi death camp guard had his American citizenship revoked by a federal judge on Friday, but his attorneys said they plan to appeal.
The Justice Department had wanted Anton Geiser deported, saying he hid his membership in the battalion that guarded Sachsenhausen, a camp near Berlin where thousands were executed or died from starvation, disease and medical experiments.
US District Court Judge David S. Cercone granted the government summary judgment in a brief order Friday that also canceled Geiser's certificate of naturalization. He ordered Geiser, who is in his early 80s, to surrender any documents pertaining to citizenship.
"Individuals like Anton Geiser, who assisted the Nazis in their quest to extinguish the lives of millions of innocent men, women and children, do not deserve the benefits of US citizenship," US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said in a statement.
Eli M. Rosenbaum, director of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, said the government will work to remove Geiser from the country "as swiftly as possible."
Geiser's attorneys said in a statement that they had not yet evaluated the case, but planned to appeal.
"We understand that Judge Cercone has issued an opinion in the case that is adverse to our client. We have not had the opportunity to fully evaluate Judge Cercone's opinion, however we do expect to file an appeal to the 3rd Circuit on behalf of Mr. Geiser," wrote his attorneys, Jay K. Reisinger and Samuel J. Reich.
Geiser has lived in Sharon, about 96 kilometers northwest of Pittsburgh, since June 1960, with his wife, Theresia. They have three sons. Geiser retired in 1987 after 31 years at Sharon Steel.
Geiser served as an armed SS Death Head guard at the Sachsenhausen camp near Berlin for much of 1943 and then was transferred to an SS officer training camp at Arolsen. There, he escorted prisoners to and from the Buchenwald camp, where tens of thousands of Jews and others were killed. He was at Arolsen until April 1945.
According to a deposition, Geiser said he saw only one prisoner harmed at Sachsenhausen - one who stepped out of line and was shot by other guards.
"I thought to myself, 'We all have bad days, some days are maybe not as good. So that poor soul maybe had something he couldn't take no more,"' Geiser said, according to the deposition. "I did not like it then and I hate it today, but there's nothing I could do. If I could do anything, I maybe be shot myself."
Geiser told federal officials that he was drafted into the German military. He denied harming prisoners even though he said he had orders to shoot prisoners who tried to escape, according to the documents.
In May 2005, a similar case was held in Milwaukee, when a Wisconsin man who served as a Nazi guard at the same concentration camp (Sachsenhausen) during World War II, was stripped of his citizenship after the judge concluded that he 'personally assisted' in the persecution of prisoners.
Josias Kumpf, 80, of Racine, served as a guard at Sachsenhausen and at the Trawniki Training Camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
In 2003, the Justice Department asked the court to revoke Kumpf's citizenship.