Oral History

Historian Peter Black describes the legislation used to deal with Nazi offenders living in the United States

In the 1980s and 1990s, historian Peter Black worked for the US Department of Justice Office of Special Investigations, as part of a team tracking and prosecuting suspected war criminals. Black later served as the Senior Historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.


There was legislation on the books already that if these applicants for immigration and later for naturalization gave willful false statements about their past, that they could be denaturalized and ultimately deported. They would return to their pre-immigration status, that is, as an alien, which, now the truth was known, was ineligible to enter the United States and an ineligible alien who is in the United States faces deportation. U.S. immigration law -- sometimes for many of the wrong reasons -- is extremely harsh, and does not make many exceptions. And it was evidently decided that -- this is not first-hand knowledge of mine -- it was evidently decided that this would be an appropriate process to deal with the issue of Nazi offenders living in the United States. It was hoped, I think initially, that for many of these individuals, that the nations where they had committed their offenses would request their extradition. And in fact there was some precedent for that. There was an outstanding request on the part of the former Yugoslav government for the former Croat minister of the interior, Andrija Artukovic, since the early 50s. And in 1972, the West German government requested and obtained the extradition of a Long Island housewife named Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan, who had been a camp guard at the Lublin-Majdanek concentration camp, and who had evaded justice afterwards, married an American serviceman, and had come over to live in the United States and who was sort of the epitome of the quiet neighbor.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum
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