PITTSBURGH – PITTSBURGH (AP) — A U.S. immigration judge has ordered an 85-year-old retired steelworker deported to Austria, or to any other country that will accept him, for serving as an armed Nazi death camp guard during World War II.
Anton Geiser and his attorney did not immediately return calls and an e-mail for comment on the decision announced Tuesday by the Justice Department. Judge Charles Honeyman issued the 14-page order out of Philadelphia on Monday.
Geiser was born in what is now part of Croatia and came to the United States from Austria in 1956. He has lived in Sharon, about 60 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, since 1960, became a citizen in 1962 and is married with three sons.
"As a Nazi concentration camp guard during World War II, Anton Geiser must be held to account for his role in the persecution of countless men, women and children," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in a statement Tuesday. "The long passage of time will not diminish our resolve to deny refuge to such individuals."
A Department of Justice spokeswoman said Geiser is not in custody. He can appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington.
Geiser has acknowledged being an armed guard who watched over and escorted prisoners at three Nazi death camps. But he has argued that his service was not voluntary and that he was therefore eligible to emigrate under the Refugee Relief Act of 1953.
Federal prosecutors have, instead, cited the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act to exclude citizenship and deport "aliens who persecuted any person on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or political opinion, under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany."
Judge Honeyman rejected Geiser's argument that the Holtzman amendment makes exceptions for those who didn't act voluntarily and ordered him deported to Austria, or, if not possible, then to Croatia, Germany or "alternatively, any country that will accept him."
Geiser, an ethnic German, was drafted into the German army at 17 and served as an armed SS Death Head guard at Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin for much of 1943.
He later 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. He was at Arolsen until April 1945.
Geiser has denied harming any prisoners, though he has acknowledged having orders to shoot prisoners who tried to escape.
A federal judge in Pittsburgh revoked his citizenship under the Holtzman amendment, and he lost a U.S. 3rd Circuit appeal in 2008 before the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case last year.
Geiser did not cite his Nazi ties on his U.S. visa application but has said he was never asked about them. Geiser is not accused of lying about his Nazi ties. Files from the period have been lost, and it is not clear what questions he was asked.
Geiser told federal authorities that he told his family about his wartime service only after the government filed suit in 2004 to revoke his citizenship.