At least 10 people who are suspected of committing Nazi war crimes have never been deported from the U.S., despite losing the American citizenship they gained when they immigrated, the AP reports. A main cause of the holdup is simple: Their European homelands don't want them back.
"In the 34 years since the Justice Department created an office to find and deport Nazi suspects, the agency has initiated legal proceedings against 137 people. Less than half — at least 66 — have been removed by deportation, extradition or voluntary departure," according to the AP.
The news agency's review of Justice data on Nazi war criminals found that men such as Vladas Zajanckauskas, currently living in Sutton, Mass.; Theodor Szehinskyj of West Chester, Penn.; and Jakiw Palij of New York City were in a legal limbo that allows them to collect public benefits in the U.S. as their cases linger.
Another suspect who remains in the United States is John (Ivan) Kalymon, who lives in Troy, Mich. — despite a 2011 Board of Immigration Appeals ruling that affirmed his deportation order.
But the process of deporting the suspects is often frustrated by other countries' refusal to accept them, several experts in the field tell the AP, especially in cases where the question of jurisdiction is a murky one.
And the AP article by Amy Forliti and Randy Herschaft finds that in some cases, U.S. officials decline to deport the suspects due to health concerns, or because of the suspects' cooperation in a wider inquiry. At least 20 suspects have died while their cases were still pending.
The case of Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk attracted widespread attention in recent years, as the former Ohio resident — a native of Ukraine — was eventually convicted of more than 28,000 counts of being an accessory to murder, for his role as a guard at a prison camp in Poland.
At 91, Demjanjuk "died a free man in a nursing home in southern Germany, where he had been released pending his appeal," as NPR's David Barnett reported last March.
It seems that no current Justice employees would speak on the record with Forliti and Herschaft about their findings. But in a recent discussion of its efforts to prosecute and deport war criminals, the federal agency noted that it had "won cases against 107 individuals who assisted in Nazi persecution.
"In addition," the Justice Department said in 2011, "180 suspected Axis persecutors who sought to enter the United States have been blocked from doing so as a result of the department's 'watchlist' program."