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The Nation

Citizenship of Ex-Nazi Is Targeted

September 11, 2003|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — The Justice Department asked a federal court Wednesday to revoke the U.S. citizenship of a Romanian-born former Nazi SS member accused of serving as a concentration camp guard.

The government alleges that Joseph Wittje, 83, of Bensenville, Ill., was a member of an SS Death's Head battalion that guarded Sachsenhausen, a camp near Berlin where thousands died from starvation, disease, hanging, gassing and medical experimentation.

Wittje's attorney, Joseph T. McGinness, said his client belonged to a Death's Head battalion and was stationed near Sachsenhausen, but never served as a camp guard. McGinness said he would fight the revocation of Wittje's citizenship.

The complaint was filed by the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, which specializes in finding Nazi-era war criminals who persecuted Jews and others and are now living in the United States.

The complaint says Wittje was the village leader of a Hitler Youth group in Romania in the 1930s and 1940s. He entered the Romanian army in 1942 and joined the Nazi Waffen SS in 1943, then was assigned to Sachsenhausen in the SS Death's Head guard unit, according to the complaint.

His lawyer said Wittje spent much of his time in the SS on construction programs.

In his 1950 immigration papers, Wittje failed to disclose his membership in the Waffen SS, which in 1946 was classified by an international military tribunal as a criminal organization, the complaint said.

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