PHILADELPHIA – A retired steelworker who served as a Nazi guard should be deported even though the United States granted him a visa in 1956, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
Anton Geiser's work as a guard meets the type of persecutory conduct banned under the Refugee Relief Act, which was in effect when he entered the U.S., the ruling said.
Geiser, 83, did not cite his Nazi ties on his visa application, but he is not accused of lying about them. Files from the period have been lost and it is not clear what questions he was asked.
His lawyer, Adrian N. Roe, argued to the court this year that guards not deemed war criminals were sometimes allowed in by the State Department. He complained that the Justice Department, in its efforts to expel former Nazis, was revisiting decisions made a half-century ago.
But the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court, which focused on the language of the Refugee Relief Act, said Geiser should have his U.S. citizenship revoked and be deported.
"We conclude, as have other Courts of Appeals, that according to the plain meaning of the RRA, concentration camp guards 'personally advocated or assisted in ... persecution,' Judge D. Michael Fisher wrote.
Roe did not immediately return a message after office hours Tuesday.
The Justice Department had argued that Geiser's visa approval was "a mistake" that should be corrected, however belatedly.
Geiser, an ethnic German, served as an armed SS Death's Head guard at Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. He then was transferred to an SS officer training camp at Arolsen, where he escorted prisoners to and from the Buchenwald camp, where tens of thousands of Jews and others were exterminated. Geiser was at Arolsen until April 1945.
Geiser has lived in Sharon, about 60 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, since June 1960. He married and had three sons. In 1987, he retired from Sharon Steel.
The Justice Department's Office of Special Investigation has been pursuing naturalized citizens with alleged Nazi ties for three decades. The office has prevailed in more than 100 cases, leading to at least 65 deportations, a spokeswoman previously said.