A draftsman who lived the last 40 years in Roselle Park, N.J., renounced his U.S. citizenship and left the country rather than contest charges that he persecuted Jews as a provincial mayor in Nazi-occupied Byelorussia during World War II, the Justice Department said yesterday.
A spokesman said John Avdzej, 79, left the United States in February and reliquinshed his citizenship March 2 at the U.S. Consulate in Stuttgart, West Germany. The Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations agreed not to prosecute him if he left the United States and renounced his citizenship.
Avdzej is the fifth person forced out of the United States since April 1983 because of alleged Nazi activities during World War II. Earlier this week, the Justice Department announced that Arthur L.H. Rudolph, 77, the former production chief for the Nazi V2 rocket and later production boss of the Saturn V moon rocket in the United States, left the country under a similar arrangement.
"He Avdzej told immigration authorities he was a farmer in Vilno, Poland, during the war," said Neal M. Sher, director of the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). "When we confronted him with the evidence that he had really been the Nazi-installed mayor of Stolpce Province near Minsk where at least 3,000 Jews disappeared during the time of Nazi occupation, he admitted he lied to get into this country under the Displaced Persons Act."
Sher said that Avdzej directed the actions that forced Stolpce's Jews into controlled ghettoes, then into barbed-wire camps before turning them over to the German SS.
"Avdzej may not have pulled the trigger on anybody," Sher said. "But his role in the disappearance of thousands of Byelorussian Jews is indisputable. His departure demonstrates again our commitment to pursue alleged Nazi war criminals in this country."
In addition to those who left the country in the last 20 months because of Nazi wartime activity, a deportation case has been started against a sixth, cases against more than 30 others are pending and about 300 are under active investigation.
The first to leave the United States was Hans Lipschis, deported to West Germany in April 1983 after being charged with murder when he was a Lithuanian SS guard at the death camp in Auschwitz. Next was Anatoly Hrusitsky, who renounced his U.S. citizenship in Venezuela in July 1984 rather than answer charges that he had been a member of the SS-sponsored Ukrainian Police, which murdered thousands of Jews.
In August of this year, Viorel Trifa was deported to Portugal, charged with having been a high-ranking figure in Romania's Iron Guard, which killed thousands of Romanian Jews during the war.
Trifa's deportation was followed by Rudolph's departure for West Germany. A deportation case is pending against Kazys Palciaukas, who already has been stripped of his citizenship for his role in the murder of thousands of Jews in Lithuania.
Rudolph's is the most celebrated case among these, mostly because of his postwar job at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration where he was production chief for the Saturn V moon rocket. He was one of 118 Germans who came to the United States after working in the V2 rocket program.
Rudolph was production chief at the V2 factory near Nordhausen where almost 10,000 slave laborers were used.