The targets of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations — people with Nazi ties who lied on citizenship forms to enter the United States after World War II — are dead or dying. The Washington Post says the unit is racing to extradite the few elderly Nazis still residing on American soil. Jonathan Drimmer, the lead trial lawyer in the government’s case against Nazi concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk, said that Demjanjuk’s recent expulsion to stand trial in Germany is “a coda on a generation of work to bring major Nazi war criminals to justice.” Since the OSI began in 1979, it has won deportation orders against 107 people and prevented 180 more from entering the U.S. through its watch list.
It remains to be seen how the close-knit group of lawyers and historians, accustomed to combing document-rich archives in the Eastern Bloc for clues, will recast its mission from capturing Nazis to catching criminals who fled murderous conflicts in such diverse places as Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. The OSI focuses on revoking the citizenship of Americans who entered the country on false pretenses by lying about their involvement in war crimes, rather than targeting wrongdoers based overseas.