Alex Constantine - August 28, 2013
Theodor Szehinskyj should have left the country long ago, federal officials say.
It's been years since he lost his last deportation appeal. It's been more than a decade since he was ordered out in the first place - since he was accused of serving as a guard at Nazi concentration camps in Germany, Poland, and his native Ukraine.
He remains under "a final order of removal," the Justice Department said Friday, and an organization that attempts to hunt down alleged Nazi war criminals recently placed him on its "most wanted" list.
But Szehinskyj, stripped of citizenship and pushing 90, evidently has remained in the country simply because no other country wants him.
And his last listed address was at a modest apartment complex in West Chester.
"He's a classic case of an individual [against whom] the U.S. has exhausted all legal options," said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Israel office and coordinator of its research on Nazi war crimes.
It's unclear exactly where Szehinskyj is these days. Neighbors say he hasn't lived at his last listed address for at least four years. And the lawyer who represented him at his deportation hearings 13 years ago didn't return several calls for comment.
Zuroff said Szehinskyj could be sent to Germany, Poland, or the Ukraine and tried for war crimes.
In 2000, Justice Department lawyers produced documents from the Waffen-SS Death's Head Battalion describing a death camp guard with Szehinskyj's name and other identifying details. At the time, Szehinskyj denied the accusations, but he was eventually ordered deported.
That, Zuroff said, is where prosecutions against ex-Nazis tend to hit a wall. Officials in other countries don't want them.
"It's bad publicity," he said. "If you take him back to Ukraine, it'll focus the public's attention on the fact that Ukrainians collaborated with Nazis. That's the last thing they want to do."
The Associated Press this month identified 10 accused Nazis who had never left the United States. Four of those 10 are still alive, including Szehinskyj.
The Justice Department is still involved in prosecuting accused Nazis, although, Zuroff said, it's impossible to tell how many are still out there.
As recently as 2011, a judge upheld a deportation order against a Detroit-area man accused of shooting Jews as a member of the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police in Lviv, Ukraine.
Organizations such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center keep tabs on individuals around the world who have been accused of Nazi war crimes; this year, Szehinskyj made the center's most-wanted list.
Over the last 12 years, 99 convictions for Nazi war crimes have been handed down and 89 indictments filed around the world, according to the center's annual report.
"There's general ignorance about this issue," Zuroff said, mainly because the public believes most of the accused must be dead by now. "But advances of modern medicine apply to Nazi war criminals as well," he said.
He's still confident those responsible for World War II-era atrocities can be found and put on trial, and hopes "Operation Last Chance," an initiative sponsored in part by the Wiesenthal Center that offers financial rewards for turning in ex-Nazis, will raise public awareness.
But, Zuroff said, time is running out. Six of the 10 men ordered deported over Nazi war crimes died before the United States could send them away.
"It's a travesty of justice," he said.