Man Accused of Nazi Ties Loses Citizenship
BOSTON (AP) _ A federal judge Wednesday revoked the U.S. citizenship of a retired Massachusetts factory worker, ruling he lied when he claimed he wasn’t involved in the Nazi destruction of the Warsaw Jewish ghetto in 1943.
Vladas Zajanckauskas, 89, denied that he was in Warsaw at the time and said his involvement with the Nazis was limited to working the bar at one of their camps in Poland.
But Justice Department prosecutors said he was recruited as a guard in a unit called the ``Trawniki men″ that helped the Nazis capture and kill Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. The Nazis killed thousands of Jews and burned down the ghetto, street by street, after the Jews resisted attempts to deport them to death camps.
Prosecutors asked the judge to revoke the Lithuania native’s citizenship on the grounds that he lied on his visa application about his activity during the war.
``The government has presented clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence that Zajanckauskas was deployed to Warsaw with a detachment of Trawniki men,″ Judge Nathaniel Gorton said.
Gorton also said he didn’t believe Zajanckauskas when he testified at his trial this month that the Nazis did not train him in their ideology, or that he was unaware when thousands of Jews were being murdered at the camp in Trawniki.
``The executions took place within one hundred yards of where he claims he worked and the bodies of the dead were burned afterward at the camp for several days, creating what must have been a horrific activity and odor,″ Gorton wrote.
Zajanckauskas can appeal the ruling. If he loses the appeal, the government can seek an order to remove him from the country, which he can also appeal.
``It can be a lengthy court process,″ said Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the Justice Department.
Messages left at a Sutton listing for Zajanckauskas was not immediately returned. Calls to his attorneys, Thomas Butters and Robert Sheketoff, were not immediately returned. But Zajanckauskas’ granddaughter, Denise Ronayne, said the family is ``extremely disappointed.″
``We still maintain that he’s in no way guilty,″ Ronayne said. ``There’s no way that we could ever believe that he could do what they said. This has been difficult for him as well as the entire family. He had to sell his home to afford the attorneys.″
Zajanckauskas emigrated from Austria in 1950 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1956. Zajanckauskas said he never told immigration officials about his Trawniki service because he thought it would jeopardize his chances of getting into the United States.
In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray said Gorton’s decision was ``another reminder of the government’s unswerving commitment to the pursuit of justice on behalf of the victims of the Holocaust.″