Hans Lipschis, accused of participating in the persecution of men, women and children in Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau, agreed yesterday in Chicago to be returned to Germany, putting him in line to become the first Nazi deported from the United States since World War II, the Justice Department said.
Allan Ryan, director of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, said Lipschis, whom he described as a former member of the SS Death's Head Battalion, was put on a wanted list of war criminals by American authorities in Europe in 1946. But he evaded capture and entered the United States in 1956 after concealing his Nazi past.
Under yesterday's order by U.S. immigration Judge Anthony Petrone, Lipschis must leave the country by April 23.
Although Ryan's office is involved in more than 200 investigations against alleged Nazis and has 26 cases in court, many cases drag on for years because any naturalized citizen has many levels of appeal in a deportation procedure.
In October, Valerian Trifa of Detroit, the Romanian Orthodox archbishop, became the first Nazi in 30 years to be ordered deported after Trifa admitted he lied to immigration officials about his pro-Nazi activities.
But Trifa, who is accused of inciting bloody, pro-Nazi rioting in Bucharest during World War II, has not found a country that will accept him. Ryan said he believes Lipschis will become the first Nazi deported because of the difficulty in finding a country for Trifa, who has already been rejected by the Swiss.
Ryan said Lipschis' deportation is easier because he is still a German citizen. The German consul in Chicago has assured the Justice Department that Lipschis will be issued a West German passport and travel documents as soon as possible.
Ryan said it impossible to deport someone unless another country agrees to accept that person. "We can't just put them out to sea," he said.
Lipschis, 63, was born in Lithuania and became a German citizen in 1943. Since coming to the United States, he has been employed in the Chicago area as a factory worker, Ryan said.
Court papers filed in Chicago say he worked as a guard at Auschwitz and Birkenau from Oct. 23, 1941, until January, 1945. They charge he participated in the persecution and deaths of millions of persons, most of them Jews.
"By refusing to dispute the charges against him, Lipschis has effectively admitted that those charges are true," Ryan said. "We were prepared to go to trial on Jan. 3 to prove those charges. His action today and the judge's order make that unnecessary."
Since the case did not go to trial, Ryan would not outline the charges against Lipschis. But he said, "Guards at the death camps were not like guards at the Lorton Reformatory or the state penitentiary. All guards at Auschwitz and Birkenau were intimately caught up in the process of killing as many people as possible as quickly as possible."
Asked if Lipschis were involved in murder, he said, "There's no doubt about it." As part of the agreement, both sides agreed not to comment further on the charges, and thus Lipschis's response to the allegations could not be obtained yesterday.
Under U.S. and international law, the courts can do no more than deport Nazi war criminals, Ryan said. He added, "If we could put these people on trial for murder, we would do it in a minute."
He said that Lipschis faces no charges in Germany, which means he will probably not be tried for his war crimes.
The Trifa and Lipschis deportation orders are the first since 1953 when Andrija Artukovic, a cabinet-level officer in the Nazi puppet government of Croatia, was ordered to leave. But he was allowed to stay because of fears he would be persecuted in Yugoslovia.
Ryan has renewed the case against Artukovic, who lives near Los Angeles, and it is pending in court.
Ryan's special section was created in 1979 to investigate and prosecute cases involving Nazi war criminals in this country. And he estimated yesterday that it will take another four or five years for the unit to complete its work.
Most of the investigations, including the one against Lipschis, are based on a list of thousands of war criminals obtained by the Justice Department from the Berlin Document Center.