Alleged Nazi guard ordered deported
Sutton man, 91, aided in Warsaw ghetto roundup, judge says
He's already been stripped of his US citizenship. And now, more than six decades after he allegedly participated in some of the worst atrocities of World War II, Vladas Zajanckauskas, a 91-year-old retired factory worker from Sutton, has been ordered deported to his native Lithuania.
In a decision issued Aug. 2 and announced yesterday by the Justice Department, a federal immigration judge found Zajanckauskas was an active member of a Nazi unit that rounded up thousands of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto in April 1943 and led them to extermination.
Eli M. Rosenbaum, who runs the Justice Department office that has been tracking Nazi war criminals in the United States since 1979, said the deportation "sends the message loud and clear that anyone who dares take part in the perpetration of crimes against humanity will be pursued, however long it takes, even if that means pursuing him into old age."
Thomas J. Butters, the Boston lawyer who represents Zajanckauskas, did not return phone calls yesterday. Neither Zajanckauskas nor his family could be reached for comment.
The government proved that Zajanckauskas was among the guards who were trained at the notorious Trawniki camp in Nazi-occupied Poland "to assist in all aspects of Operation Reinhard, the Nazi plan to murder all Jews in Poland," wrote US Immigration Judge Wayne R. Iskra, sitting in Boston.
The judge rejected Zajanckauskas's assertion he was involuntarily forced to serve in the German Army and merely worked the canteen at the Trawniki camp. He found that Zajanckauskas "played a somewhat active role in the persecution" of Jews. Zajanckauskas's military unit was "responsible for rape, murder, and other acts of barbarism," the judge wrote.
Zajanckauskas, who is living with his wife in a small cottage in Sutton, has until Sept. 4 to appeal the deportation order to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia. If he pursues all appeals and loses, it could take another year or two before he is deported, said Rosenbaum, director of the Office of Special Investigations.
The office -- which three years ago also began targeting so-called modern-day war criminals linked to atrocities committed in Bosnia, Rwanda, and other countries -- has successfully prosecuted 105 cases, resulting in 63 deportations, said Rosenbaum.
In cases involving World War II atrocities, Rosenbaum said bringing aging war criminals to justice is "definitely a race against time."
"Sometimes we win, and sometimes the grim reaper wins," Rosenbaum said.
Zajanckauskas's family testified that he is a hard-working, loving, religious man who goes to church and likes to tend his garden, court documents said.
Zajanckauskas, who worked at a factory for 35 years, has a daughter, three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
His daughter, Diane Lavoie of Sutton, described him in court as "the best father anybody could ever have" and testified in immigration court that he has a "deep respect for life and nature." She said that both of her parents suffer from a variety of ailments and that it would be devastating to them if her father is deported.
The deportation order followed a long legal battle. Zajanckauskas was stripped of his US citizenship in January 2005 by a federal judge, who concluded after a trial that he lied on immigration documents when entering the country in 1950.
Zajanckauskas said he had worked on his parents' farm in Lithuania until 1944, when he fled to Germany, then to Austria. He did not disclose that he had been to Warsaw and served in the German Army. His wife, Gladys, who came to the United States with him, indicated on immigration forms that she was born in Lithuania, though she was born in Trawniki and met him when he was stationed at the camp.
Testifying at both the federal trial and this year's deportation hearing, Zajanckauskas said that he and his wife hid their ties to Trawniki because other Lithuanians advised them that it would raise additional questions that might delay their efforts to immigrate for years.
Zajanckauskas testified that he was a Lithuanian soldier, incorporated into the Soviet Army, then captured by the Germans in 1941. After being imprisoned in a concentration camp, Zajanckauskas contended, he was pressed into service by the Germans and put to work running the canteen at the Trawniki training camp.
He insisted that he remained at the camp when other guards were sent to the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 to conduct house-to-house searches for Jews and to round them up for extermination.
But Rosenbaum said the evidence, including an old Nazi guard roster from the Trawniki camp, proved that Zajanckauskas was "an accomplice in genocide" who was deployed to one of the most infamous operations of World War II, the liquidation of the Warsaw Jewish ghetto.