Nazi camp guard deported to Germany from US

Posted August 24, 2018

A 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard who lived more than 60 years in the United States has been deported to Germany, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

He concealed his Nazi service by telling US immigration officials that he had spent the war years working until 1944 on his father's farm in his hometown, which was previously a part of Poland and is now in Ukraine, and then in a German factory.

Palij has been taken to a home for the elderly in Germany, according to Reuters. Berlin, however, had long resisted because he was not a German citizen. "U.S. administrators, senators, congressmen, and representatives of the Jewish communities in the United States of America emphasize that people who served the criminal NS regime should not spend the twilight of their lives in the country of their choice, the USA". The White House commended the move this morning.

Jakiw Palij, 95, was born in a part of Poland that is situated in present-day Ukraine, immigrated to the United States in 1949 and became a US citizen in 1957.

The American public did not become fully aware until the 1970s that thousands of Nazi persecutors had gone to the US after World War II.

Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, praised the "perseverance and dedication" of United States authorities in their efforts to have Palij removed.

The U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, said the deportation was the result of a concerted effort by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Palij was taken to a home for the elderly in the western town of Ahlen, some 130 kilometers northeast of Dusseldorf.

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German prosecutors had opened a criminal investigation against Palij in 2015 but closed the case for lack of evidence.

Although Germany has put several aged former Nazi guards on trial in recent years for crimes committed during the Holocaust, the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said it was unlikely Palij would be prosecuted. But it wouldn't change Palij's case either way, the judge said.

Washington had tried for almost two decades to expel Palij, who had lived in Queens, New York since 1949.

Palij admitted to Justice Department officials in 2001 that he was trained at the SS Training Camp in Trawniki, in Nazi-occupied Poland, in the spring of 1943. It would take another 14 years of United States diplomatic efforts before Berlin consented.

On Nov. 3, 1943, some 6,000 Jewish men, women and children incarcerated at Trawniki were shot to death in one of the largest single massacres of the Holocaust.

"Trawniki was a camp where people were trained to round up and murder the Jews in Poland, so there's certainly a basis for some sort of prosecution", he said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem, adding that the U.S. Department of Justice "deserves a lot of credit" for sticking with the case. By helping to prevent the escape of these prisoners during his service at Trawniki, Palij played an indispensable role in ensuring that they later met their tragic fate at the hands of the Nazis.

He later became a United States citizen. Ambassador Grenell says he brought this up repeatedly with the new German government with his counterparts there and decided to make a moral case. The museum confirms that Palij was a guard at the Trawniki labor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and that he was among those who provided the manpower to "Operation Reinhard", the plan to kill 2 million Jews living in Poland. He died the next year.

A German court sentenced him to five years in prison in 2011.

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