Mass. man, 87, accused of Nazi collaboration

September 22, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Justice Department Nazi-hunters moved yesterday to strip U.S. citizenship from a Massachusetts man on grounds that he hid his role in the mass murder and persecution of Jews while heading a unit of the Nazi-sponsored Lithuanian Security Police during World War II.

The Justice Department action illustrated the crucial value of records that had been out of the reach of federal investigators for decades under Soviet control.

Aleksandras Lileikis, 87, who allegedly ran the Saugumas, or security police, in Vilnius province of Lithuania, immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1955 under the Refugee Relief Act and became a naturalized citizen in 1976.

Eli M. Rosenbaum, acting director of the department's Office of Special Investigations, described Mr. Lileikis, a retired publishing company employee, as "a senior-level perpetrator of the Holocaust."

Mr. Rosenbaum said that before the Lithuanian records became available, the Nazi-hunting unit had been looking into whether Mr. Lileikis had lied in denying his wartime role but had been "stymied by the inability to get hard evidence."

Opening of archives in Eastern and Central Europe in 1991 produced "a veritable treasure of evidentiary riches," Mr. Rosenbaum said. "We're able to make cases that would have been impossible to put together." The Lileikis case is a "prime example of what access has made possible."

In a denaturalization complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Boston, the government alleged that from August 1941 until the German occupation of Lithuania ended in July 1944, Mr. Lileikis directed his security force to seek out and arrest Jews who violated Nazi decrees.

The more than 100 Saugumas plainclothes officers under Mr. Lileikis' command focused on Jews who escaped or attempted to escape from the barbed wire-enclosed ghettos in which they had been interned under "catastrophically inhumane" conditions, according to the complaint.

The complaint cited several instances in 1941 when Mr. Lileikis reportedly turned over Jews to the so-called Lithuanian "special detachment," with full knowledge that the unit served as an execution squad.

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