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Justice Dept. Nazi Hunters Widen Net As Nazis Die Off

As the last of the Nazis die off, this Justice Dept. unit is widening the net and widening the mission to focus more on war crimes beyond World War II.

John Demjanjuk/msnbc

John Demjanjuk/msnbc

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Earlier this year, 400 miles from downtown Washington, a Gulfstream IV jet carrying one of the country’s most infamous accused war criminals prepared to take flight as Justice Department prosecutors watched via a live television feed.

The target of their rapt attention: onetime Nazi concentration-camp guard John Demjanjuk, 89, who had outlasted a generation of American lawyers vying to deport him from the United States for allegedly lying about his role in the Holocaust.

One attorney in the department’s elite Office of Special Investigations died of cancer, another perished in an airplane crash and others had retired from public service in the nearly three decades since the investigation began.

“Even as the plane took off, I thought, ‘Something’s going to happen,’ ” recalled OSI Director Eli Rosenbaum. “Because that was the case for so many years, where if something could go wrong, it did go wrong.”

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