ATLANTA - An 85-year-old suburban Atlanta man failed to show up Tuesday for a deportation hearing stemming from charges that he served as a Nazi concentration camp guard, and a federal immigration judge ordered him removed from the country.
Paul Henss of Lawrenceville is accused of training and handling attack dogs at the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps.
Federal immigration authorities said Henss has fled the U.S. and gone back to his native Germany. Edgar Chen, an attorney with the Department of Justice's Office of Special Investigations, said he contacted Henss' daughter, who lives in the Atlanta area, by telephone after her father failed to appear at a 1 p.m. court hearing. He said she told him that her father had fled the country.
The Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security said that Henss, a German citizen, assisted in Nazi persecution of Jews, a crime punishable by deportation under U.S. immigration law.
The Department of Justice announced the action against Henss on Oct. 1.
U.S. Immigration Judge J. Dan Pelletier ordered Henss removed from the country after a 30-minute hearing conducted without Henss or an attorney on his behalf present, as is allowed by law. Henss had been served with a notice to appear for Tuesday afternoon's proceeding.
Chen told the judge that the Department of Homeland Security had confirmed that Henss left for Germany on Friday.
'The respondent's failure to appear at today's hearing is at his own peril,' Pelletier said before issuing his ruling.
Henss has no right to appeal the decision.
Telephone records list only one number in Henss' daughter's name in Gwinnett County. A man who answered at the number Tuesday said, 'I don't know where he is,' when asked about Henss whereabouts, and then hung up.
According to federal authorities, Henss joined the Hitler Youth organization in Germany in 1934 as a young boy and joined the Nazi Party in 1940.
He entered the Waffen SS in 1941 and volunteered the following year to become an SS dog handler, serving from 1942 to 1944 at the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps in Germany, the immigration document states.
There, Henss instructed other guards in the use of trained attack dogs to guard prisoners and prevent their escape, and personally guarded prisoners and forced-labor details to prevent escapes, authorities allege.
SS regulations during Henss' time of service said dogs were to be trained 'to 'bite without mercy' and to literally tear prisoners to pieces if they attempted to escape,' the document states.
Henss admitted in a sworn statement March 13 that he served as an SS guard at Dachau and Buchenwald for two to three months each as a dog handler, according to the charging document.
When questioned by the media at his home last month, Henss acknowledged training dogs but said he fought in Russia and never set foot inside Dachau or Buchenwald.
'The training of dogs was no crime,' Henss said with his wife sobbing next to him outside their well-kept one-story brick house. 'I was not training them to hurt people.'
Henss said that when he came to the U.S. 33 years ago, he did not tell immigration officials about his military service in Germany and was not asked.
The deportation case was filed after a review of German records, prosecutors said. Jaclyn Lesch, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said the government does not plan to file criminal charges against Henss.
He said he has lived in Georgia for 10 years.
The Office of Special Investigations, which handles cases against people accused of being former Nazis, began operations in 1979. Authorities said it has won cases against 106 participants in Nazi crimes.