The Justice Department announced on Tuesday that Jakiw Palij, a 95 year old former Nazi concentration camp guard, has been deported to Germany.
Palij worked as guard at the Tranwniki Labor Camp in then German-occupied Poland, according to CNN. Tranwniki is one of the largest mass killings site of the Holocaust. The ex - Nazi immigrated to the US in 1949 and became a citizen in 1957. According to the White House, he had lied to US immigration about his involvement in World War II to gain citizenship. For most of the post-war years, he ended up living in Queens, New York.
In 2001, Palij reportedly confessed to the Justice Department that he worked at the concentration camp. Two years later, his U.S. citizenship was taken away and a judge order for him to be deported.
Since 1949, Jakiw Palij concealed that he was a guard at the Trawniki slave-labor camp for Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland when he immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. He has now been removed from the U.S. We thank Germany for re-admitting him. pic.twitter.com/xcO2RGcP3i
— Department of State (@StateDept) August 21, 2018
“By helping to prevent the escape of these prisoners during his service at Trawniki, Palij played an indispensable role in ensuring that they later met their tragic fate at the hands of the Nazis,” the Justice Department’s statement says.
That was more than a decade ago. For years, he lived in the US before being sent back to Germany this week. CNN reports that Palij said he was coerced into serving as a Nazi guard because his family was threatened. The government still said that lying about his involvement was grounds for removal. But until now, no European countries wanted to take him.
“The United States will never be a safe haven for those who have participated in atrocities, war crimes, and human rights abuses,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement on Tuesday. “Jakiw Palij lied about his Nazi past to immigrate to this country and then fraudulently become an American citizen. He had no right to citizenship or to even be in this country.”
There was a major diplomatic struggle over which country would take responsibility for Palij’s actions. Since no one claimed him, Palij was allowed to remain in the U.S for so long. According to NPR, both Poland and Ukraine would not take Palij because they thought it was Germany’s responsibility. Palij was born in a part of Poland that used to be Ukraine. Germany refused to take him before as his alleged crimes happened on foreign soil.
CNN reports that Germany is “unlikely” to be prosecuted because of not enough evidence.