- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Johann Breyer, 77, landed work the day after arriving in America in 1952 and quietly supported his family for the next 40 years as a tool-and-die maker.

Andrew Kuras, 80, grew blueberries and raised his sons in New Jersey.

Ildefonsas Bucmys, 81, worked in an Ohio foundry for 27 years before retiring in 1985.

These three men, say federal prosecutors, are former guards at Nazi concentration camps who helped Hitler's Third Reich kill millions of Jews.

Despite their advanced age, prosecutors say the men should not be allowed to live or die in the United States.

"We race the clock against the Grim Reaper. Sometimes the Grim Reaper wins," said Eli Rosenbaum, who directs the Justice Department's Nazi-hunting unit, the Office of Special Investigations.

Congress established the office in 1979 to seek out and deport war criminals from World War II. But with its targets reaching their 80s and 90s, some question its mission.

"To continue the prosecution of octogenarians and soon nonagenarians is, to be sure, a political decision," Senior Judge Ruggero J. Aldisert of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a 1996 dissent in a Nazi deportation case.

Others complain that the office, having flushed out the more egregious cases, is now chasing men who were mere pawns of the Nazis and have been law-abiding members of American society for decades since.

"Time after time, you find these people have led exemplary lives as citizens," said Martin Lentz, a Philadelphia attorney who represents Mr. Breyer.

But Mr. Rosenbaum said these immigrants never should have been allowed to gain the benefits of U.S. residency and citizenship.

"The bottom line is, they simply shouldn't be here," he said, "and it is especially cruel to require survivors of the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes who have made new homes here to share their adopted homeland with their former tormentors."

The Justice Department builds deportation cases against these men by showing they lied about their wartime activities when they entered the United States. The OSI's work has led judges to strip 71 persons of their citizenship and deport 51.

The OSI staff has 24 lawyers, historians and investigators and a $5 million annual budget. There are about 150 people now under investigation and 19 cases pending in court. "We're nowhere near the last Nazi trial," Mr. Rosenbaum said.

The office has lost only a few cases in the past decade, in part due to the cache of documentary evidence including signed oaths and employee lists from Nazi death camps that became available with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In Mr. Bucmys' case, the Dayton, Ohio, resident could lose his status as a naturalized citizen and be deported if a federal judge determines that Mr. Bucmys lied about Nazi ties when he came to the United States in 1958.

Prosecutors say Mr. Bucmys was part of an auxiliary police battalion formed by the Nazis after they invaded Lithuania during World War II. According to the Justice Department, Mr. Bucmys was an armed guard at the Majdanek death camp in Poland and was there on Nov. 3, 1943, when about 18,000 Jews were fatally shot.

Mr. Bucmys has said that he joined the Lithuanian National Guard, only to see the group taken over by the occupying Nazis.

He said that he never worked at the camp and that he deserted before the massacre.

Mr. Bucmys' father, two brothers and a baby sister were killed by German soldiers who stormed his village in 1941, said his attorney, R. Mark Henry.

"It doesn't diminish the suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust to say there were many other families, including this man's family, which were also victims of the Nazis," Mr. Henry said.

This month, Mr. Breyer, who lives in Philadelphia, won a reprieve from a federal judge who said Mr. Breyer could not legally have given consent at 17 when he joined the Waffen SS. His case also differed from most others because his mother had been born in Philadelphia, and he was deemed a U.S. citizen by birthright.

"After 52 consecutive victories in federal court, we lost one. That happens," Mr. Rosenbaum said.

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