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AP IMPACT: US limbo for Nazi suspects ordered out

Wednesday - 7/31/2013, 3:10am  ET

FILE- This 1956 file photo from a naturalization document released Aug. 16, 2007 by the U.S. Department of Justice shows Vladas Zajanckauskas. At least 10 suspected Nazi war criminals ordered deported by the United States never left the country, according to an Associated Press review of Justice Department data _ and Zajanckauskas, from Sutton, Mass., is on four that is living in the U.S. today because no other country was willing to take them. (AP Photo/U.S. Department of Justice, File)

AMY FORLITI
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- At least 10 suspected Nazi war criminals ordered deported by the United States never left the country, according to an Associated Press review of Justice Department data -- and four are living in the United States today. All remained eligible for public benefits such as Social Security until they exhausted appeals, and in one case even beyond.

Quiet American legal limbo was the fate of all 10 men uncovered in the AP review. The reason: While the U.S. wanted them out, no other country was willing to take them in.

That's currently the case of Vladas Zajanckauskas in Sutton, Massachusetts. It's the case of Theodor Szehinskyj in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Of Jakiw Palij in New York City. And of John Kalymon in Troy, Michigan.

All have been in the same areas for years, stripped of citizenship and ordered deported, yet able to carry out their lives in familiar surroundings. Dozens of other Nazi war crimes suspects in the U.S. were also entitled to Social Security and other public benefits for years as they fought deportation.

The United States can deport people over evidence of involvement in Nazi war crimes, but cannot put such people on trial because the alleged crimes did not take place on American soil. The responsibility to prosecute would lie with the countries where the crimes were committed or ordered -- if the suspects ever end up there.

In the 34 years since the Justice Department created an office to find and deport Nazi suspects, the agency has initiated legal proceedings against 137 people. Less than half -- at least 66 -- have been removed by deportation, extradition or voluntary departure.

At least 20 died while their cases were pending. In at least 20 other cases, U.S. officials agreed not to pursue or enforce deportation orders, often because of poor health, according to a 2008 report by the Justice Department. In some cases, the U.S. government agreed not to file deportation proceedings in exchange for cooperation in other investigations, the report said.

But the key stumbling block has been the lack of political will by countries in Europe to accept those ordered to leave.

"Without any doubt, the greatest single frustration has been our inability, in quite a number of cases now, to carry out the deportation orders that we've won in federal courts. We can't carry them out because governments of Europe refuse to take these people back," Eli Rosenbaum, the longtime head of the Justice Department agency charged with investigating accused Nazi war criminals, said in the 2011 documentary "Elusive Justice: The Search for Nazi War Criminals."

Justice officials declined to make Rosenbaum available for an interview.

The four men still living in the U.S despite deportation orders have all exhausted appeals:

--Zajanckauskas, 97, remains in Massachusetts 11 years after authorities first began the denaturalization process. He was ordered deported to his native Lithuania in 2007, and ran out of appeals in 2010 but remains in the U.S. because other countries, including Lithuania, won't accept him, Rosenbaum has said. Zajanckauskas took part in the "brutal liquidation" of the Warsaw Ghetto, according to Rosenbaum. Zajanckauskas, who didn't return a message from the AP, has denied being in Warsaw at the time.

--Szehinskyj, 89, remains in Pennsylvania nearly 14 years after DOJ began a case against him. He was denaturalized and ordered deported to his native Ukraine, Poland or Germany, and exhausted all appeals in 2006. The Department of Justice has said no country has been willing to accept him. Authorities say Szehinskyj was an armed guard at Nazi concentration camps in Germany and Poland, a claim he has denied. Szehinskyj's attorney didn't return messages from the AP.

--Palij, 89, remains in New York 11 years after the DOJ initiated a case against him and seven years after he exhausted appeals. Court records say Palij -- born in a part of Poland that is now part of Ukraine-- was an armed guard at an SS slave labor camp for Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland until at least the spring of 1943, and helped to keep prisoners from escaping. Palij has denied the accusations. The original order deporting Palij to Ukraine has been amended to allow deportation to Germany, Poland or any other country willing to accept him. Justice officials say none has been willing. A man who answered the phone at Palij's number had trouble hearing and could not carry out a phone conversation. A woman who answered the phone at the office of Palij's attorney said he does not speak to reporters.

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