Decades on, former Nazi camp guard deported to Germany from US

Wednesday, 22 Aug, 2018

Jakiw Palij, a former member of the SS in German-occupied Poland and a postwar resident of Queens, N.Y., arrived in Germany on Tuesday morning on a US government flight.

The US Department of Justice released a photo taken in 1957 of Jakiw Palij, who illegally concealed his Nazi past from US immigration agents. The former Nazi guard lied to USA immigration officials about his role in World War II, saying he worked on a farm and in a factory, the White House said in a statement.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials removed Jakiw Palij from his home in Queens, New York, 14 years after a US court ordered his deportation.

German media reports said Palij arrived early Tuesday at Duesseldorf airport and was to be taken to an elder care home. Born in Poland in 1923, he was trained by the SS in the Trawniki concentration camp in southeastern Nazi-occupied Poland in 1941.

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Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust during World War II, many of them in gas chambers in Nazi death camps. His deportation was ordered in 2004 after a judge said he had falsified his immigration application.

Investigators first confronted Palij about his past 25 years ago but authorities have struggled to deport him. 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.

Later that year, roughly 6,000 Jewish men, women and children held captive at Trawniki were shot to death - one of the largest single massacres of the Holocaust.

Authorities believed he was the last Nazi collaborator still living in the U.S., and his residence in the Queens area of New York City attracted protests from residents. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper reported that he was taken by ambulance to a nursing home in the Münsterland region.

Grenell told Fox News that Trump instructed him to make Palij's removal a priority and that the new German government, which took office in March, brought "new energy" to the process.

Palij was finally deported thanks to the work of Justice Department "Nazi hunter" Eli Rosenbaum, whose efforts have been praised by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In 2001, Palij admitted to the government officials that he was trained at a Nazi facility and participated in "Operations Reinhard", the Nazi's plan to murder Jews in Poland, where served as a guard at the Trawniki Labor Camp.

Grenell told reporters that there were "difficult conversations" because Palij is not a German citizen and was stateless after losing his USA citizenship, but "the moral obligation" of taking in "someone who served in the name of the German government was accepted".

Eli Rosenbaum, who has worked for decades at the Justice Department hunting ex-Nazis, called Palij's deportation "a landmark victory in the US government's decades-long quest to achieve a measure of justice and accountability for the victims of Nazi inhumanity". Some estimates say 10,000 may have made the US their home after the war.

Although Germany has put several aged former Nazi guards on trial in recent years for crimes committed during the Holocaust, the head of the Central Office for Investigation of Nazi Crimes, Jens Rommel, told AFP it was unlikely he would be prosecuted. Cases are also slowed because the Ludwigsburg-based Nazi crimes agency handles only early stage investigations that are later taken over by local prosecutors.