The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it was deporting a Nazi concentration camp guard, who was living in Tennessee, back to Germany.
U.S. Immigration Judge Rebecca L. Holt issued the removal order against Friedrich Karl Berger, a German national, because of his “willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place.”
The Department of Justice said in a statement that Berger served at the the Neuengamme Concentration Camp system in 1945 near Meppen, Germany.
“Judge Holt found that Meppen prisoners were held during the winter of 1945 in ‘atrocious’ conditions and were exploited for outdoor forced labor, working, as at other Nazi camps, ‘to the point of exhaustion and death,'” the DOJ said. “The court further found, and Berger admitted, that he guarded prisoners to prevent them from escaping during their dawn-to-dusk workday, and on their way to the worksites and also on their way back to the subcamp in the evening.”
“At the end of March 1945, with the advance of British and Canadian forces, the Nazis abandoned Meppe,” the DOJ continued. “The court found that Berger helped guard the prisoners during their forcible evacuation to the Neuengamme main camp – a nearly two-week trip under inhumane conditions, which claimed the lives of some 70 prisoners.”
Perhaps the most shocking part in the DOJ’s statement was the revelation that Berger “continues to receive a pension from Germany based on his employment in Germany, ‘including his wartime service.'”
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division said, “Berger was part of the SS machinery of oppression that kept concentration camp prisoners in atrocious conditions of confinement. This ruling shows the Department’s continued commitment to obtaining a measure of justice, however late, for the victims of wartime Nazi persecution.”
Assistant Director David C. Shaw of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), National Security Investigations Division, who oversees the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, said, “This case is but one example of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s commitment to ensuring that the United States will not serve as a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals. We will continue to pursue these types of cases so that justice may be served.”
Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell responded to the news by writing on Twitter: “This is excellent news and another win for the Trump Administration’s work to send back Nazi collaborators.”
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) March 5, 2020
In August 2018, the Trump administration announced that it was deporting 95-year-old Jakiw Palij – who at the time was the last known Nazi collaborator living in the United States – back to Germany.
“President Trump commends his Administration’s comprehensive actions, especially ICE’s actions, in removing this war criminal from United States soil,” the Office of the Press Secretary said in a statement. “Despite a court ordering his deportation in 2004, past administrations were unsuccessful in removing Palij.”
“To protect the promise of freedom for Holocaust survivors and their families, President Trump prioritized the removal of Pali,” the statement continued. “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.”
In meetings with senior officials this week, Ambassador @RichardGrenell continued the 12-year U.S. government push for Germany to accept Nazi collaborator Jakiw Palij.
— US-Botschaft Berlin (@usbotschaft) May 18, 2018
In a font larger than the rest of the press release, the White House emphasized: “Palij had lied about being a Nazi and remained in the United States for decades. 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.”