Accused former Nazi guard arrested, deported to Germany

Posted August 24, 2018

USA officials say a 95-year-old former Nazi labor camp guard named Jakiw Palij who lied about his wartime work when he immigrated to the United States has been deported to Germany. But in 2003, a federal judge in NY stripped him of his citizenship on the grounds that he had concealed his service at an SS slave-labor camp.

Palij told Justice Department investigators who showed up at his door in 1993: "I would never have received my visa if I told the truth". Born in Poland in 1923, he was trained by the SS in the Trawniki concentration camp in southeastern Nazi-occupied Poland in 1941. But the order was not carried out for years, in large part because neither Poland nor Ukraine agreed to take him. His continued presence there outraged the Jewish community, attracting frequent protests over the years that featured such chants as, "Your neighbor is a Nazi!" Palij has acknowledged serving in Trawniki but denied any involvement in war crimes.

Last September, all 29 members of New York's congressional delegation signed a letter urging the State Department to follow through on his deportation.

Palij, who lived in Queens in New York City, was investigated and denaturalized more than a decade ago. But "the moral obligation" of taking in "someone who served in the name of the German government was accepted", he said.

The deportation Tuesday came after weeks of diplomatic negotiations.

On May 9, 2002, the Criminal Division's then-Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of NY filed a four-count complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of NY, to revoke Palij's citizenship.

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

Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, praised the "perseverance and dedication" of U.S. authorities in their efforts to have Palij removed. 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, the DOJ said. Sarah, what can you tell us about this man Jakiw Palij? He told DW that German prosecutors would need either evidence of direct participation in murder, or evidence that he had worked in a concentration camp, in which case he could be charged with accessory to murder.

"The United States will never be a safe haven for those who have participated in atrocities, war crimes, and human rights abuses", said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. That was the same year thousands of prisoners, many of whom were Jews from occupied Poland, were executed.

After the war, Palij maintained friendships with other Nazi guards who the government says came to the US under similar false pretenses.

The Justice Department's special Nazi-hunting unit started piecing together Palij's past after a fellow Trawniki guard identified him to Canadian authorities in 1989.

MCCAMMON: Well, it just comes down to the fact that these other countries didn't want to take him.

It wasn't until after a second interview in 2001 that he signed a document acknowledging he had been a guard at Trawniki and a member of the Streibel Battalion. "To work at those camps, you had to be eager to be there", he told the newspaper.

He was ordered to be deported after the US government found out who he actually was, and then he stayed.

"There are now no preliminary proceedings in Germany and there is no arrest warrant", said Rommel, who heads the office.

In addition to Karkoc, there are nearly certainly others in the USA who have either not yet been identified or investigated by authorities. He became American in 1957. Some estimates say 10,000 may have made the USA their home after the war. And they're using this case, certainly, to highlight.

"Good riddance to this war criminal", said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.