May 13, 2011 -- The conviction of former Nazi and one-time Cleveland autoworker John Demjanjuk for hiding his Nazi war crimes has focused attention on the remaining aging Nazis discovered in America, but legal appeals and international refusal to accept these men suggest they may live out the rest of their lives in the U.S.
There are currently only six remaining Nazi cases left on the books for U.S. investigators to wrap up. One man Peter Egner died in February just before an Appeals Court was slated to hear his case.
Demjanjuk, 91, was convicted Thursday by a German court of taking part in the murder of over 28,000 Jews while serving as a prison guard at the Sobibor concentration camp. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but has been let out while he appeals the sentence.
Demjanjuk's legal battles have been underway since 1986 when he was first accused of hiding his Nazi past while living in Cleveland. Repeated trials and appeals have spanned the U.S., Israel and Germany.
"John Demjanjuk's conviction in Munich today is the result of many years of extraordinary work by German and U.S. authorities," said Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Justice Department's office that oversees prosecutions of the remaining Nazis in the U.S. "It serves notice on all human rights violators that the passage of time will neither erase the world's memory of their terrible crimes nor end its commitment to holding them to account."
The decades long effort to convict Demjanjuk also serves notice on how difficult it is to convict the ex-Nazis. Many of the cases were brought by being able to prove that the men lied on their immigration forms when they entered the United States after World War II. Since it was established in 1979 the Office of Special Investigations secured over 105 cases where former Nazi persecutors were deported or stripped of their U.S. citizenship.
No Country Will Accept Aging Nazis Ordered Deported
But once convicted and stripped of their citizenship, it is proving to be very difficult to deport them. Of the six remaining Nazis who have been discovered in the U.S., all have been ordered to be deported but all are still here and have been appealing the deportation order for as long as seven years.
U.S. officials have told ABC News that the fact is that U.S. cannot find a country that will accept the aging Nazis.
In the most recent case, an immigration judge ruled in May 2010 that Anton Geiser, 87, should be removed from the U.S. to go to Austria. Geiser served as an armed SS guard at three different Nazi concentration camps -- Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald and Arolsen camps. Geiser immigrated to the U.S. after World War II and was found by a court in 2006 to have clearly have aided in the persecution of Jews in Germany. Geiser is currently appealing the judge's ruling.
In March 2007 a federal judge revoked John (Ivan) Kalymon's citizenship for his role in shooting Jews in the Lvov Ghetto in German occupied Poland. Kalymon, 89, had been in the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police, documents found in his investigation revealed that he accounted for ammunition he had used in the shootings. He was ordered to be deported from the United States to any country willing to take him. Kalymon was recently added to the most wanted Nazi war criminal list by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Kalymon is currently appealing the removal order.
Vladas Zajanckauksas, 96, had allegedly served as a guard at Trawniki and was accused of taking part in the mass murder of Jews in Warsaw in 1943. He admitted that he lied on his U.S. immigration forms about his service to the SS. He was ordered to be deported in 2007.
Osyp Firishchak, now 91 was convicted in 2005 after a four day bench trial for his role in the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police. Prosecutors said he lied on his immigration forms when he entered the United States and did not disclose his role in the UAP which preformed work for the Nazis persecuting and segregating Jews in Galicia. Firishchak is currently appealing his removal order.
Jakiw Palij, 88, served as a guard at the Trawniki SS training camp in Nazi-occupied Poland where an estimated 6,000 Jew were murdered in a single day. Because he omitted his service as a guard on his immigration forms Palij was ordered to be deported in June 2004. At the time then Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray said, "The immigration judge's decision reaffirms the important principle that neither the passage of time nor the expanse of an ocean will prevent the United States from securing a measure of justice on behalf of the victims of the Nazi regime."
Theodor Szehinskyj, 87, was ordered to be deported from the United States in 2003 for his service in the SS Death's Head (Totenkopf) Battalion guard unit where he worked at three concentration camps.