PITTSBURGH — 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 been living in a small western Pennsylvania town 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 be appealing a deportation order next week, before the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, Va.
We hope that he is deported, said Joy Braunstein, director of the Holocaust Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
But Kurt Schrimm, the head of the special prosecutors' office in Germany that investigates Nazi war crimes, said they aren't currently investigating Geiser's case, and the Austrian Justice Ministry said it hasn't corresponded with American authorities.
Geiser says he was forced to join the SS at the age of 17, in 1942, and that he never killed anyone. And while he served as a guard at the Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald concentration camps, he didn't serve at so-called death camps, such as Treblinka and Auschwitz-Birkenau, which existed only to exterminate people.
The details may be irrelevant to most people, but in past cases, prosecutors mentioned death-camp service, noting the prisoners there had no option other than death. In the case of Johann Breyer of Philadelphia, another accused former Nazi guard, a judge allowed him to stay in the U.S., reasoning in part that because Breyer had joined the SS at age 17, he couldn't be held responsible for what he did as a minor.
Federal prosecutors, however, say that even if Anton Geiser didn't kill anyone, his work as a concentration camp guard makes him a party to the persecution of countless men, women and children, no matter how long ago that happened.
Geiser escorted prisoners to slave labor sites and was under orders to shoot any prisoners who attempted to escape. Both sides agree that Geiser guarded only the perimeter of the camps.