The United States government deported a former Nazi concentration camp guard to Germany on Saturday for participating in state-sponsored persecution back in 1945.
Friedrich Karl Berger, 95, a former guard in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp system, was deported under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act because he willingly served at a camp where persecution took place, according to the Department of Justice. Specifically, Berger worked at Meppen, a sub-camp in the system where prisoners worked “to the point of exhaustion and death.”
“Berger’s removal demonstrates the Department of Justice’s and its law enforcement partners’ commitment to ensuring that the United States is not a safe haven for those who have participated in Nazi crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses,” said Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson in a statement Saturday. “The Department marshaled evidence that our Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section found in archives here and in Europe, including records of the historic trial at Nuremberg of the most notorious former leaders of the defeated Nazi regime. In this year in which we mark the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg convictions, this case shows that the passage even of many decades will not deter the Department from pursuing justice on behalf of the victims of Nazi crimes.”
During a two-day trial in February of last year, Berger admitted that his guarding duties consisted of preventing prisoners from escaping while they worked in forced labor. The court also found Berger was responsible for evacuating prisoners under inhumane conditions when the Nazis were forced to abandon Meppen as the allies approached.
Berger never requested a transfer from guard service during his time at the Neuengamme system. More than 50,000 prisoners, including Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Latvians, French, and Italians died at the camp, nearly half the people who were ever imprisoned there, according to estimates from the Holocaust Memorial Museum. As of February of 2020, Berger was still receiving a German pension that cited his employment with the government, including in wartime.
“We are committed to ensuring the United States will not serve as a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals,” said Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson. “We will never cease to pursue those who persecute others. This case exemplifies the steadfast dedication of both ICE and the Department of Justice to pursue justice and to hunt relentlessly for those who participated in one of history’s greatest atrocities, no matter how long it takes.”
Berger is the 70th Nazi persecutor to be deported from the United States. According to the German news outlet Deutsche Welle, Berger arrived on Saturday and has been referred to authorities for questioning. German prosecutors previously dropped a case against him, citing a lack of evidence that he was directly responsible for a specific murder. He has reportedly argued in the past that he was just following orders.
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