LAWRENCEVILLE - Paul Henss was born in Germany 85 years ago.
He came to the United States 52 years ago. Nine years ago, he and his wife, Else, purchased a home in the Glen Oaks Racquet subdivision in Lawrenceville, a well-kept middle-class neighborhood off of Cruse Road.
Federal authorities announced Monday they are working to deport Henss, who they say served as an attack dog handler during World War II at the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps in Germany. The Department of Justice's Office of Special Investigations alleges Henss hid his concentration camp service when he immigrated into the United States in 1955.
A court document states Henss admitted on March 13 he served as a guard at both Nazi concentration camps for two to three months each, guarding forced labor details of prisoners at both camps and instructing other SS personnel on dog-handling techniques.
The Post could not reach Henss for comment Monday, but he told the Associated Press he did not participate in war crimes. With his wife sobbing at his side, Henss said that as an SS soldier he did train German shepherds and Rottweilers during World War II, but said he never set foot inside Dachau or Buchenwald and never used attack dogs on prisoners in concentration camps.
"I didn't commit no crimes," Henss said in a thick German accent. "I didn't hurt nobody. Otherwise I wouldn't have come to the United States."
He called the Holocaust "a catastrophe" and said, "Everybody in Germany knows that wasn't right."
He said he has lived in Georgia for 10 years.
Henss is hard of hearing, has had some heart problems and uses a walker. He said that the case against him was unfair.
"I didn't join the SS to fight in concentration camps," Henss said, adding that he fought in Russia. "Everybody had to do something. ... Anybody who has anything to do with the concentration camps is guilty automatically."
Henss said that when he came to the United States, he did not tell immigration officials about his military service in Germany and was not asked.
"I forgot about the war," he said. "I wanted to leave the war behind me."
He said that after coming to America, he worked in the packing industry and does not know why he was being questioned more than six decades later.
"The training of dogs was no crime," Henss said. "I was not training them to hurt people. ... They think I am war criminal. I am not a war criminal."
His wife, Else, sobbed, clutching his arm and pacing as he answered reporters' questions.
"He's a good man," she said. "I don't want to lose him."
No criminal charges are being filed against Henss, because the Justice Department has "no jurisdiction ... (in) the alleged crimes that took place decades ago on European soil," said Jaclyn Lesch, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department.
The deportation proceedings were brought against Henss, a permanent resident alien, after a review of German records, Lesch said. Historians working with the Office of Special Investigations compared Nazi documents from World War II with immigration records, she said.
Court documents state Henss allegedly joined the Hitler Youth organization in Germany in 1934, when he was about 12 years old, and he joined the Nazi Party after he turned 18.
In the documents, Henss is accused of joining the Waffen SS in 1941, and a year later he volunteered to become a dog handler. SS regulations in place at that time specified dogs were trained to "bite without mercy" and "to literally tear prisoners to pieces if they attempted to escape."
About 38,000 prisoners died at the Dachau concentration camp, and about 55,000 prisoners died at Buchenwald.
Currently, there are six of these deportation cases open throughout the United States, Lesch said. This is the first case of this type in Georgia.
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.
Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi hunter, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from Israel that it likely took decades to identify Henss' alleged connection to the Nazis because of the time it takes to obtain records from that time period.
"There were so may perpetrators, so many people who played a role, it takes a very long time to carry out a comprehensive ... reference of all of the individuals who in any way participated in the crimes of the Holocaust," he said.
Zuroff added that identifying former Nazis who may be living in the U.S. is a painstaking process, but "an absolutely necessary process."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.