Stangelville parishioner faces deportation
Many support man who was Nazi prison guard
By Joanne Flemming
Members of St. Therese de Lisieux Parish in Stangelville are praying that fellow parishioner Anton "Tony" Tittjung can remain in the United States.
Tittjung, 76, is accused of being a perimeter guard at a German concentration camp during World War II. He could face deportation if the U.S. Supreme Court refuses turns down a petition by his attorney, Joseph McGinness of Cleveland, Ohio, to hear Tittjung's case.
Tittjung and his wife Katharina, both ethnic Germans born in Croatia, came to Wisconsin in 1952. They were naturalized in 1974. He lost his citizenship in 1990.
If Tittjung is deported, he and his wife don't know where he will end up because Croatia is a war zone.
In the meantime, the parish is helping the couple with food, said Fr. Terry LaCombe, pastor. Parishioners have also signed petitions to Wisconsin Sens. Russell Feingold and Herbert Kohl and Rep. Mark Green on Tittjung's behalf.
Describing Tittjung as a "valued member of the parish," Fr. LaCombe called for a "sense of compassion and forgiveness.... (They're) just really good people."
What happened to Tittjung, he said, happened "a long time ago" when he was 17.
Mrs. Tittjung said the problem started 60 years ago on Palm Sunday when the Germans started bombing Belgrade in Yugoslavia, where Tittjung was working as a teenage apprentice. When the bombing started, he returned to his parents' home and worked in their vineyard for almost a year until the Germans drafted him and assigned him to be a perimeter guard in the "Waffen" (armed) SS at a concentration camp in Austria.
McGinness and Mrs. Tittjung said the "Waffen" SS was made up of men who "were pressed into service" and who "were unfit for combat."
As guard at the outermost wire around the camp, they were to fire warning shots if the camp was attacked by partisans from the nearby woods.
They were not allowed in the camp, nor could they talk to prisoners, McGinness said.
After the war, Tittjung met his wife in Austria where they were working. They married in 1948 and had their first son before coming to the U.S. They had a daughter and a second son after settling in Milwaukee. Tittjung worked 41½ years for Milwaukee Marble Company before retiring.
In 1978,Congress passed the Holzmann Amendment to the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act banning anybody that had anything to do with Nazi persecution during the war from entering the U.S., McGinness said.
The Office of Special Investigations in the Justice Department enforces the law, McGinness said, adding that the Tittjungs "are completely innocent" and are neither Nazis nor war criminals.
The OSI, which found them on April 8, 1988, maintains that the visa Tittjung was issued in Austria was not valid. "We are 40 years here, and what's going on all of a sudden?" asked Mrs. Tittjung.
The case was tried in federal court in 1990, and Tittjung lost his citizenship. They have been appealing since. Last August, he lost his Social Security benefits.
"The lawyers, even the paperwork, took many, many thousands of dollars, said Tittjung. So they sold their Milwaukee home and settled near Stangelville.
Mrs. Tittjung said their parish in Milwaukee helped them like the one in Stangelville is.
Although Tittjung has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer's, his biggest worry, if deported, is his wife, who cannot go with him because of numerous medical problems.
"She is going to be here alone. She can't be alone," he said.
The Supreme Court is expected to decide in about six weeks if it will hear the case, McGinness said. He has exhausted all his other appeals.