CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Michigan – Federal authorities have freed a former Nazi concentration camp guard after failing to find a country to take the 81-year-old retired toolmaker who had been stripped of his U.S. citizenship.
In January, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, upheld a decision to take away Johann Leprich's citizenship.
On Sept. 18, Leprich's lawyer asked U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to order Leprich released, citing a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring the freeing of those who have not been deported within six months of a removal order.
The Justice Department said it released Leprich on Monday because Romania, Hungary and Germany refused to accept him, despite high-level meetings with officials from those countries, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Leprich was jailed in 2003 after agents found him hiding in a secret compartment in his family's home in Macomb County's Clinton Township, about 20 miles northeast of Detroit.
Leprich is an ethnic German born in Birk, Romania, in 1925. In 1943, he joined the Nazi military organization Waffen SS and served as an armed guard at Mauthausen concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Austria, court records say.
About 119,000 people were killed at Mauthausen. They included political prisoners, Spanish civil war veterans, Soviet, Dutch and Czech prisoners of war and Jews.
Leprich immigrated to the U.S. from Germany after World War II and became a U.S. citizen in 1958. But he fled to Windsor, Ontario, in 1987 shortly before a federal judge revoked his citizenship for hiding his Nazi party membership.