The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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March 3, 2008

Former Nazi camp guard Geiser fights deportation

SHARON — A retired steelworker from Sharon who served as a Nazi concentration camp guard should not be deported because the State Department — rightly or wrongly — granted him a visa in 1956, his lawyer argued Monday.

Anton Geiser, 83, of Cedar Avenue, did not cite his Nazi ties on his visa application, but neither is he accused of lying about the matter. Geiser’s investigative file from the period is lost, so it is not clear whether the person who would have interviewed him for the visa knew he had been a guard.

Geiser’s attorney, Adrian N. Roe, said guards not characterized as war criminals were sometimes allowed into the country.

“The government is rethinking the wisdom of that policy decided by the State Department 50 years ago,” Roe argued before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

Geiser is among the 80 to 100 naturalized U.S. citizens deported or threatened with deportation because of alleged Nazi ties, a government lawyer said. The Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigation has been pursuing them for the past three decades. Officials said the office has prevailed in 107 cases against alleged Nazi criminals, and 65 have been deported.

Roe argued that Geiser’s case is somewhat different than most because he came to the U.S. through the Refugee Relief Act, which was in effect for just three years. The language of that law is ambiguous, he said.

The law barred visas for anyone “who personally advocated or assisted in the persecution of any person or group of persons because of race, religion or national origin.” Roe said that does not necessarily ban camp guards who were not deemed war criminals.

“If you don’t have guards around the camp, everyone might walk out and go home,” Judge Jane R. Roth quipped.

Justice Department lawyer Christina P. Giffin argued that the approval of Geiser’s visa was “a mistake” that should be corrected, however belatedly. She added that there is no evidence that Congress intended to limit the Refugee Relief Act’s visa ban to war criminals.

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