WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A federal court of appeals in Chicago has unanimously affirmed a decision to denaturalize Kazys Ciurinskas, a Hammond, Indiana man who served during World War II as an armed member of a Nazi-sponsored unit that murdered thousands of Jews and others in German-occupied Byelorussia (now Belarus) and Lithuania, the Department of Justice announced today. Eli M. Rosenbaum, Director of the Criminal Division's Office of Special Investigations (OSI), noted that the Ciurinskas decision, which was made available Friday by the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, is a result of OSI's ongoing investigation of Nazi persecutors residing illegally in the United States. He termed the court's decision "an extremely important victory, the first appellate decision anywhere in the world involving this infamous Nazi-backed battalion that massacred so many thousands of men, women and children." The court found that Ciurinskas, 80, assisted in the Nazisponsored persecution of civilians while serving as a member of the infamous 2nd Lithuanian Schutzmannschaft Battalion. The court noted that members of the 2nd Battalion committed atrocities in Byelorussia, killing thousands of civilians, predominantly Jews. Ciurinskas immigrated to this country from Germany in 1949; he became a citizen in 1955. The 2nd Battalion functioned primarily as a mobile killing unit. Recruited in Lithuania, it perpetrated numerous mass shootings of Jewish men, women and children, as well as Soviet military prisoners and suspected communists and their families, in both Lithuania and Byelorussia. During October 1941 alone, battalion members participated in massacres that claimed the lives of over 10,000 innocent civilians in Byelorussia. The court found that, while serving in the Battalion in 1941, Ciurinskas was promoted for "conscientiously fulfilling his duties." During the trial of this case in Hammond in 1995, the government proved that the Battalion was ordered to Byelorussia from its base in Kaunas, Lithuania, in October 1941. Prosecutors introduced wartime documentation as well as evidence from Jewish survivors and former members of the Battalion. The former Battalion members recounted in chilling detail how their unit, along with German personnel, surrounded villages, forcibly assembled the victims, and then drove them en masse to wooded areas where they were murdered by gunfire. In 1962, Major Franz Lechthaler, the German officer under whose command the battalion conducted the killing operations in Byelorussia, was convicted in Germany on multiple murder charges. He has since died.

The court noted that members of the 2nd Battalion assisted in rounding up doomed Jews and others and in bringing them to pits, and that it participated in their mass execution by gunfire. The court cited evidence that Ciurinskas personally took part in the killing actions. It also affirmed findings that Ciurinskas should not have been given a visa to enter the United States in 1949 because he voluntarily served in an organization under German command, he served in an organization that was hostile to the United States, he "advocated or acquiesced in activities or conduct contrary to civilization and human decency," he misrepresented his personal history when applying for a visa, and because he lacked the good moral character necessary for citizenship. While applying for immigration to the United States in 1949, Ciurinskas falsely stated that he had been a miller from 1936 to 1944. OSI was created in 1979 to investigate and take legal action against Axis persecutors living in the United States. To date, 59 participants in Nazi-sponsored persecution have been stripped of U.S. citizenship and 47 such persons have been removed from this country. Nearly 300 persons remain under investigation. Rosenbaum stated that his Office "will seek to have Kazys Ciurinskas removed from this country as expeditiously as possible." He noted that, in September 1997, Judge O.J. Brahos of the United States Immigration Court in Chicago ordered the deportation of Juozas Naujalis, a Chicago man who had been a member of the same 2nd Lithuanian Schutzmannschaft Battalion. ###