ShareThis Page

Ex-Nazi camp guard, a Sharon resident, to face deportation hearing

| Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

As U.S. authorities continue a long legal battle to deport a former Nazi concentration camp guard, it's not clear what will happen next if they prevail.

Anton Geiser, now 88, has lived in Sharon for more than 50 years. He didn't even tell his family about the Nazi service until 2004, when the Justice Department began legal proceedings.

Geiser's lawyer will go before the Board of Immigration Appeals this week in Falls Church, Va., to appeal a deportation order.

“We hope that he is deported,” said Joy Braunstein, director of the Holocaust Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Kurt Schrimm, head of the special prosecutors' office in Germany that investigates Nazi war crimes, said it is not investigating Geiser's case, and the Austrian Justice Ministry said it has not corresponded with American authorities.

Geiser says he was forced to join the SS in 1942, at age 17, and that he never killed anyone. He served at the Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald concentration camps, but not at death camps such as Treblinka and Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Federal prosecutors say that even if Geiser didn't kill anyone, his work as a concentration camp guard makes him a party to the persecution of countless people.

Geiser escorted prisoners to slave labor sites and was under orders to shoot any prisoners who attempted to escape. Both sides agree Geiser guarded only the perimeter of the camps, but previous court rulings have found that doing so is enough to make someone ineligible for U.S. citizenship.

Geiser told prosecutors that he was ashamed of his work as a camp guard. “I was not proud where I served, and I didn't like it then, and I didn't like it now,” he said.

Geiser's lawyer, Adrian Roe, said Geiser was recently hospitalized and does not want to talk about the case, but added that neither he nor his client dispute that the Nazi camps were horrific and “outrageous” chapters of history.

The Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald camps held some political and military prisoners, but tens of thousands of people died there under horrific conditions, such as starvation, slave labor, medical experiments and executions.

A federal judge in Pittsburgh revoked Geiser's citizenship in 2006, and another judge ordered him deported in 2010. Geiser is fighting that order. He lost a circuit court appeal in 2008, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case in 2009. In 2010 an immigration judge ordered him deported to Austria or any other country that will take him.

Geiser came to the United States in 1956 and settled in Sharon, about 75 miles north of Pittsburgh. He became a citizen in 1962, worked in a steel mill for decades and raised five children.

The Austrian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a question about whether the country would accept Geiser.

Roe said that no matter how the Immigration Board rules, further appeals are possible.

The Justice Department did not respond to questions for comment on the Geiser case, which is part of its efforts to investigate former Nazis. Since the program began in 1979, it has won more than 100 cases.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.