Published: Wed, August 22, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Nazi labor camp guard arrested by ICE, deported to Germany: Authorities

Nazi labor camp guard arrested by ICE, deported to Germany: Authorities

On Tuesday morning, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) finally carried out a 2004 deportation order for Jakiw Palij, a former Nazi SS labor camp guard in German-occupied Poland and a postwar resident of Queens, New York.

ABC News reported that "Trump told U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to make Palij's deportation his number one priority when he got to Berlin".

According to AFP news agency, Palij confessed when investigators arrived at his door in 1993, saying: "I would never have received my visa if I told the truth".

Jakiw Palij, 95, hid his involvement in the slaughter of Jews at the Trawniki concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and gained entry to the U.S. in 1949 by claiming he was a farmer and factory worker. Palij has admitted serving in Trawniki but denied any involvement in war crimes.

Palij immigrated to the United States in 1949 as a 26-year-old war refugee and was granted USA citizenship in 1959.

In a call with reporters, Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, said the USA was eventually able to convince Germany to accept Palij.

Former Nazi guard Jakiw Palij, 95, is carried by stretcher from his NY home as he is deported to Germany.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said "there is no line under historical responsibility", but added in a comment to the German daily Bild that doing justice to the memory of Nazi atrocities "means standing by our moral obligation to the victims and the subsequent generations". Palij's US citizenship was revoked in August 2003 by a federal judge in the Eastern District of NY based on his wartime activities and postwar immigration fraud.

Speaking on the deportation, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Palij had no right to become a USA citizen or remain in the country given his lies. Trawniki was where one of the largest massacres of the Holocaust occurred.

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"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".

At least 23 alleged Nazi criminals who are believed to have worked in death camps were already facing charges in Germany and Austria by June, marking a dramatic increase compared with previous decades, according to a document German prosecutors shared with The Washington Post.

"They saw this as a moral obligation that they had, not so much a legal obligation", said Grenell, noting that Palij had worked as a guard for the then-German government. He was convicted in 2011 of being an accessory to more than 28,000 killings and died 10 months later, at age 91, with his appeal pending.

After the war, Palij maintained friendships with other Nazi guards who the government says came to the USA 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.

But the Demjanjuk case was simpler, said Rommel: "Demjanjuk was also trained in Trawniki, but he was deployed in the death camp Sobibor, where everyone who arrived was killed, so that everyone who served there, regardless of what they did on individual days, helped to maintain this death machinery".

But rather than a prison cell, Palij spent the next 15 years in his NY residence as authorities took their time processing his extradition order.

Republicans on Tuesday swiftly sought to turn the overnight deportation of an alleged Nazi collaborator from US soil into a rallying cry for Immigration and Customs Enforcement - the agency that physically removed him - and a political cudgel against Democrats who've questioned its mission.

She tweeted: 'For many years a Nazi forced labor camp guard had been living in NY - a awful injustice.

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