Man accused of helping liquidate Warsaw ghetto has citizenship revoked...
By Jay Lindsay, Associated Press Writer | January 26, 2005
BOSTON -- A federal judge on Wednesday revoked the U.S. citizenship of a retired factory worker from Sutton, ruling he lied when he claimed he wasn't involved in the Nazi destruction of the Warsaw Jewish ghetto in 1943.
U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said testimony from Vladas Zajanckauskas, 89, during a three-day bench trial this month in federal court was "not credible."
Zajanckauskas, a native of Lithuania and a former German prisoner of war, testified his service at the Nazi training camp in Trawniki, Poland, was limited to working the bar. He said he was not in Warsaw in April 1943.
But Justice Department prosecutors, citing his name on a roster of guards deployed to Warsaw, asked Gorton to revoke Zajanckauskas' citizenship on the grounds that he lied on his visa application about his activity during the war.
Prosecutors said he was recruited as a guard in a unit known as the "Trawniki men," which helped the Nazis capture and kill Jews in the Warsaw ghetto.
The Nazis killed thousands of Jews and burned down the ghetto, street by street, after the Jews resisted attempts to deport them to death camps.
"The government has presented clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence that Zajanckauskas was deployed to Warsaw with a detachment of Trawniki men," Gorton wrote.
Zajanckauskas can appeal the ruling and is not subject to arrest because it was a civil complaint. If he loses the appeal, the government can seek an order to remove him from the country, which he can also appeal.
"It can be a lengthy court process," said Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the Justice Department.
Messages left at a Sutton listing for Zajanckauskas were not immediately returned. Calls to his attorneys, Thomas Butters and Robert Sheketoff, were not immediately returned. But Zajanckauskas' granddaughter, Denise Ronayne, said the family is "extremely disappointed."
"We still maintain that he's in no way guilty," Ronayne said. "There's no way that we could ever believe that he could do what they said. This has been difficult for him as well as the entire family. He had to sell his home to afford the attorneys."
Zajanckauskas has denied any involvement in the destruction of the ghetto. He emigrated from Austria in 1950 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1956. Zajanckauskas said he never told immigration officials about his Trawniki service because he thought it would jeopardize his chances of getting into the United States.
Gorton's ruling followed a trial that ended Jan. 12.
According to court documents, Zajanckauskas was listed on an April 17, 1943, roster as one of nine noncommissioned officers who led 351 Trawniki men deployed with Nazi SS and police to "liquidate" the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw.
Gorton rejected Zajanckauskas' testimony that he was mistakenly listed on the roster of guards deployed to Warsaw, or that the roster was a draft. Citing expert testimony, he said the Nazis didn't produce drafts because it was too time-consuming. Gorton also said the roster correctly identified his rank and identification number, which Gorton said "excludes any reasonable possibility that it was included by error."
In the ruling, Gorton also said he didn't believe Zajanckauskas when he testified that the Nazis did not train him in their ideology, or that he was unaware when thousands of Jews were being murdered in Trawniki.
"The executions took place within one hundred yards of where he claims he worked and the bodies of the dead were burned afterward at the camp for several days, creating what must have been a horrific activity and odor," Gorton wrote.
In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray said Gorton's decision was "another reminder of the government's unswerving commitment to the pursuit of justice on behalf of the victims of the Holocaust."
Ronayne, Zajanckauskas' granddaughter, said the case relied on just one document, and that "there are many, many that are missing. They would show that he was where he said he was."
© Copyright 2005 Associated Press.