A 95-year-old former Nazi SS soldier and concentration camp guard living in New York City has been deported.
Jakiw Palij, 95, was taken from his Queens, New York home on Monday by ICE officers and deported to Germany, according to the Associated Press. Palij admitted lying to immigration officials about his Nazi past to secure American citizenship, and a judge stripped it from him in 2005 and ordered him removed.
According to the Justice Department, Palij served at Trawniki in 1943. That was the same year thousands of prisoners, many of whom were Jews from occupied Poland, were executed. Palij admitted to serving in Trawniki but denied involvement in war crimes, the Justice Department says.
Video footage captured by ABC News showed federal immigration officers carrying Palij out of his Queens home strapped to a stretcher on Monday, sporting a white fluffy beard and newsboy cap on his head. As he was carried away, he ignored shouted questions from a reporter, “Are you a Nazi? Do you have any regrets?”
Palij landed in the western German city of Duesseldorf on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported, where local government officials said he would be taken care of at an elder facility in the town of Ahlen.
German prosecutors have previously said it does not appear that there’s enough evidence to charge Palij with wartime crimes.
Palij entered the U.S. in 1949 under the Displaced Persons Act, a law meant to help refugees from post-war Europe. He told immigration officials he had worked during the war in a woodshop and farm in Nazi-occupied Poland; at another farm in Germany; and finally in a German upholstery factory. He never served in the military, he said.
But in truth, as an armed guard at Trawniki, he played an essential role in the Nazi program to exterminate Jews in German-occupied Poland, officials say According to legal filings in the case against him, one unit Palij served in “committed atrocities against Polish civilians and others,” while another, the notorious SS Streibel Battalion, rounded up and detailed “thousands of Polish civilian forced laborers.”
Palij and his wife purchased their Queens home in 1966, from a Polish Jewish couple who had survived the Holocaust and were not aware of his past, the AP says.
Palij’s removal was personally ordered by President Donald Trump, according to ABC News. His administration said in a statement on Tuesday that the president “prioritized the removal of Palij. 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."
Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Associated Press that the camp where Palij served, Trawniki, was “where people were trained to round up and murder the Jews in Poland,” so the U.S. Department of Justice “deserves a lot of credit” for finally deporting the former Nazi.
“The efforts invested by the United States in getting Palij deported are really noteworthy and I’m very happy to see that they finally met with success.”
[Photo: Justice Department via AP]