Josef Eckert said after his deportation from the United States that he was only a guard at Auschwitz death camp during World War II and did not know what happened inside, a news report said.
Eckert, 65, who had been living in La Puente, Calif., flew into Salzburg's airport Thursday night from Zurich, Switzerland, on an Austrian Airlines flight.The U.S. resident for 30 years admitted Sept. 27 that he served in the SS guard unit assigned to Auschwitz, where he guarded prisoners. Millions of people were murdered during his tenure there.
However, The Austria Press Agency reported that Eckert said upon his arrival here that he never served inside a concentration camp, was only a member of a guard unit, and did not know what happened inside.
It was not clear if Eckert was retracting any part of earlier statements he made in the United States.
Speaking on Austrian television, he said Thursday night he had served "outside the (Auschwitz) camp," but he did not elaborate.
U.S. Justice Department spokesman Loye Miller said Wednesday that Eckert flew out of the United States Tuesday night but missed his connecting flight in London when he fell asleep at Heathrow airport. Instead, said Miller, he flew to Salzburg via Zurich on Thursday.
Eckert concealed his Auschwitz service from U.S. immigration officials when he obtained a visa to come to the United States in 1956, the department said. At the time, he was living in Austria.
The department's Office of Special Investigations negotiated with Austria to arrange Eckert's return and Austria agreed last December.
An Austrian Justice Ministry spokesman said Eckert will be questioned here about his wartime activities.