The Justice Department is accusing a retired suburban Detroit tool and die maker of being a guard at a Nazi death camp and has asked a federal judge to strip the 73-year-old man of his U.S. citizenship.
The Office of Special Investigations said Ferdinand Hammer failed to disclose his membership in the Waffen SS's Death's Head Battalion when he became a citizen 31 years ago.In a civil complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, the Justice Department office charged with tracking down Nazis living in this country said Hammer lied on his application for citizenship, which was granted in 1963.
Hammer allegedly guarded prisoners at concentration camps in Germany and in Nazi-occupied Poland, including Auschwitz, and at Mauthausen in Austria.
Hammer's lawyer, William Bufalino, denied the allegation and called the accusations "defamatory and malicious."
The lawyer said Hammer had only served as an infantry soldier in the German Army and was not a member of the SS, which served as the Nazi Party's guard and intelligence unit.
"It's just a shame that the government has waited 40 years to bring these charges," Bufalino said. "He's been a good, law-abiding citizen - doesn't even have a traffic ticket."
The complaint alleges Hammer had several assignments in the Death's Head Battalion and participated in atrocities at the death camps, including confining people under inhumane conditions, arbitrary beatings, torture, slave labor and mass murder.
The lawyer said Hammer was inducted into the German Army in October 1942 and was in hospitals for an ear infection until 1943. He remained in the infantry until deserting in January 1945, Bufalino said.
The U.S. Army employed Hammer from 1945 to 1948 in Austria and he immigrated to the United States in 1955, Bufalino said. He and his wife have been married for 47 years.