95-year old former Nazi labour camp guard deported to Germany 

The German foreign ministry said it had agreed to accept the former Ukraine national Jakiw Palij after his expulsion from the United States late Monday.

Published: 21st August 2018 05:47 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st August 2018 06:42 PM   |  A+A-

The United States had repeatedly pressed for Germany to take in Jakiw Palij , Nazi labour camp guard. Berlin, however, had long resisted because he was not a German citizen. (Photo | AFP)

By AFP

Germany on Tuesday took in a 95-year-old former guard at a Nazi labour camp where more than 6,000 people were killed after he was stripped of his US citizenship.

The German foreign ministry said it had agreed to accept the former Ukraine national Jakiw Palij after his expulsion from the United States late Monday, citing Berlin's "moral duty" in light of the Nazis' crimes.

Jakiw Palij, former Nazi concentration camp guard, lives in the Queens borough of New York. (Photo | AP)

"The United States had repeatedly pressed for Germany to take in Palij," the ministry said. Berlin, however, had long resisted because he was not a German citizen.

"The US administration, senators, members of Congress and representatives of the Jewish community in the United States stress that people who served the rogue Nazi regime should not be able to live out their twilight years in peace in their country of choice, the United States," the ministry added. 

Palij illegally concealed his Nazi past from US immigration agents when he moved to the United States in 1949, the US Justice Department said. He became American in 1957.

No US 'safe haven'

The White House said in a statement that President Donald Trump had "prioritised" the removal of Palij "to protect the promise of freedom for Holocaust survivors and their families". 

"Palij's removal sends a strong message:  The United States will not tolerate those who facilitated Nazi crimes and other human rights violations, and they will not find a safe haven on American soil," it said.

The home of former Nazi concentration camp guard Jakiw Palij, in the Jackson Heights neighbourhood of the Queens borough of New York. (Photo | AP)

German media reports said Palij arrived early Tuesday at Duesseldorf airport and was to be taken to an elder care home.

The daily Bild said that 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.

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

Palij, who was born in what was then Poland and is now Ukraine, admitted to federal officials in 2001 that he was trained as a Nazi guard in spring 1943, the Justice Department said.

A federal judge revoked Pajil's US citizenship in August 2003 and a year later, a US immigration judge ordered his deportation to Ukraine for working at the Trawniki forced-labour camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

'A single nightmarish day'

In court documents, the US government said men who trained at Trawniki participated in implementing the Third Reich's plan to murder Jews in Poland, code-named "Operation Reinhard".

On November 3, 1943, more than 6,000 men, women and children imprisoned at Trawniki were shot to death in one of the largest single massacres of the Holocaust.

This 1942 photo shows Heinrich Himmler, centre left, shaking hands with new guard recruits at the Trawniki concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. (File photo | AP)

"During a single nightmarish day in November 1943, all of the more than 6,000 prisoners of the Nazi camp that Jakiw Palij had guarded were systematically butchered," Eli Rosenbaum, then director of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, said at the time.

"By helping to prevent the escape of these prisoners, Palij played an indispensable role in ensuring that they met their tragic fate at the hands of the Nazis."

The US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who has clashed repeatedly with Berlin officials over transatlantic policy differences since his arrival in May, welcomed Palij's arrival.

"The decision to allow Palij to return to Germany was because of the political will and strong commitment of several members of the Chancellor (Angela Merkel)'s team," the embassy said in a statement. 

"We are grateful to them for helping bring another step towards closure for the victims of the Holocaust and their families."

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