MINNEAPOLIS — 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.