US deports Nazi Labor Camp Guard to Germany
The United States deported a 95-year-old former Nazi labor camp guard back to Germany on Tuesday after more than a decade of diplomatic fights over his status, according to The Guardian.
Jakiw Palij, who lived in Queens, New York City, arrived at Dusseldorf airport on Tuesday morning after his deportation was ordered in 2004 after an investigation ordered him to be denaturalized.
Palij is accused of having lied to immigration officials more than 70 years ago to gain entry into the country, originally claiming he was a Polish farmer.
Authorities determined 20 years ago he was actually a member of the Schutzstaffel, an elite paramilitary organization within the Nazi Party, and had worked at the Trawniki concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, which trained soldiers to gather Jewish people to be executed.
His U.S. citizenship was revoked in 2003 and a judge ordered his expulsion in 2005, but Germany refused to take him, claiming his crimes took place on foreign soil.
The U.S. was unable to prosecute him for similar reasons and both Poland and Ukraine, where part of the camp now lies, refused to take in the former SS officer, claiming it was Berlin’s responsibility.
U.S. officials pressured the German government to take him on the grounds that it had a moral responsibility to accept Palij.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum confirmed Palij was a guard at the Trawniki labor camp and was one of those who was involved in the “Operation Reinhard,” which planned to murder two million Jews living in Poland.
The Trawniki camp was dissolved by the Nazis in 1944, the Holocaust Museum says.
When Palij was confronted over his past, he said “everybody lied” on their visa applications, according to The Associated Press.
Palij lived in a two-story home in Queens, where he lived with his wife, Maria, who is 86, but his neighbors frequently staged protests over the years outside his home, including signs which read: “Your neighbor is a Nazi!”
The precedent for the deportation case was sent by John Demjanjuk, who was deported from the U.S. in 2009 and found guilty by a Munich court for his role in the murders of 28,000 people in the Sobibór concentration camp in Poland.
Demjanjuk passed away in Germany in 2012.
It’s unclear if Palij will face prosecution in Germany since officials have repeatedly said there is not enough evidence to bring charges against him.
Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said Germany recognized it had an obligation to accept Palij.
“There is no cut-off point for historical responsibility. To do justice to the memory of Nazi-era atrocities means to fight against antisemitism, discrimination and racism. And it means standing up to our moral obligations on behalf of the victims and successive generations. The guilt of those who carried out these crimes in Germany’s name will never elapse. The pain continues to be deep,” he said in a statement to the German newspaper Bild.
“The USA has repeatedly and emphatically demanded that Germany admit Palij. The US administration, senators, members of Congress and representatives of Jewish communities in the US stress that people who have served in the rogue regime of the Nazis should not be able to spend their twilight years unchallenged in the country of their choice, the US,” a spokesman for the foreign ministry said.
All 29 members of New York’s congressional delegation signed a letter which called on the State Department to follow through with Palij’s deportation.
The White House claimed President Donald Trump made the deportation a priority in recent weeks.
A White House press statement read: “Through extensive negotiations, President Trump and his team secured Palij’s deportation to Germany and advanced the United States’ collaborative efforts with a key European ally.”
–WN.com, Maureen Foody
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