CHICAGO – Seven decades was not enough time to separate an 88-year-old Chicago man from his past.
The Justice Department announced Thursday plans to deport Osyp "Joe" Firishchak, who they claim lied about his role in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II to win passage to the United States.
The government claims Firishchak was a member of the Nazi-controlled Ukrainian Auxiliary Police, which helped kill 100,000 people in a Jewish ghetto. It also claims Firishchak guarded posts so Jewish prisoners couldn't escape.
Greg Gordon, who prosecuted Firishchak in 2005 and now teaches at the University of North Dakota law school, said the evidence during the trial was clear.
"He was with the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police during a time when they were committing horrendous atrocities against the Jewish population," Gordon said.
Firishchak is fighting the deportation order in attempt to clear his name. He emigrated to the United States in 1949 and became a citizen in 1954. The deadline to appeal the deportation order is Dec. 10.
Firishchak's next-door neighbors defended him, saying his is a "sweet, wonderful man."
"This is really sad that this is what our government has to waste money on," David Salk said.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko defended an award given to a man accused of murdering thousands of Jews during World War II.
Ukrainian nationalist leader Roman Shukhevych was posthumously named a Hero of Ukraine last month for his role in helping win Ukraine's independence. But researchers claim that a force under Shukhevych helped kill nearly 4,000 Jews in 1941.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.