From the looks of it, Adam Friedrich's south St. Louis home appears to be a place where a pair of jolly seniors contentedly whiled away their dotage. A handpainted sign welcomes visitors to "Oma and Opa's house," and young visitors are promised "milk and cookies," "hide n' seek" and "bedtime stories."
"He kept his yard neat. He was nice to old ladies and dogs: They all read out of the same script," says William Kenety, senior trial attorney for the Office of Special Investigations, a U.S. Justice Department agency that pursues war criminals. "I anticipate that his denaturalization will be affirmed."
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, Adam Friedrich, now 83 years old, was a member of Adolf Hitler's infamous Waffen SS during World War II. Government attorneys contend that beginning in 1942, Friedrich, an ethnic German born in Romania, worked as a guard at the Gross-Rosen concentration camp in German-occupied Poland.
Today, government attorneys are trying to strip Friedrich of his U.S. citizenship, alleging that he not only carried a gun but also participated in several forced marches of Jews, gypsies and Poles to concentration camps deeper inside German-occupied territory and away from advancing Allied troops.
In its effort to take away his U.S. citizenship, the government contends that Friedrich concealed his wartime activity from immigration officials when he entered the country in 1955. Friedrich did not dispute the government's charges of his Nazi affiliation, and last February district court judge Carol Jackson ruled to revoke Friedrich's citizenship.
Friedrich, who now lives in a nursing home and could not be reached for comment, appealed the decision, and last month a three-judge federal appeals panel heard oral arguments. An opinion is expected to be handed down in the coming weeks.
"If the government is successful [Friedrich] will still be considered a lawful permanent resident," says Friedrich's attorney, Warren Hoff. "They then have to initiate some proceedings in immigration court to take away his permanent resident status." The entire process could take many more years, and it remains unclear where Friedrich would go if deported.
"Traditionally, they end up going to their country of origin," says Kenety. "But where they came from is often a murky question because some of these people will be ethnic Germans born in one country, but that country changed hands when they were twenty years old, so a lot of times people will have three countries of origin."
At his advanced age and with his Nazi involvement now 60 years behind him, Friedrich may never have to leave the United States.
"There aren't a whole lot left," says one senior justice department official. "Obviously, there's a biological solution to our problem."