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Ex Nazi deported

A 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard who lived quietly in New York City for decades was carried out of his home on a stretcher by federal agents and flown to Germany early Tuesday in what could prove to be the last U.S. deportation of a World War II-era war-crimes suspect.

Jakiw Palij's expulsion, at President Donald Trump's urging, came 25 years after investigators first accused Palij of lying about his wartime past to get into the U.S. But it was largely symbolic because officials in Germany have repeatedly said there is insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

Trump "made it very clear" he wanted Palij out of the country, and a new German government that took office in March brought "new energy" to expediting the matter, U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell said.

"He's gone. He's back in Germany," Trump said at a campaign rally in West Virginia Tuesday night as he celebrated his role in the deportation.

Eli Rosenbaum, the former head of the U.S. office investigating accused Nazi war criminals, said Palij's removal "is a landmark victory in the U.S. government's decades-long quest to achieve a measure of justice and accountability on behalf of the victims of Nazi inhumanity."

Palij lived quietly in the U.S. for years, as a draftsman and then as a retiree, until nearly three decades ago when investigators found his name on an old Nazi roster and a fellow former guard spilled the secret that he was "living somewhere in America."

Palij, an ethnic Ukrainian born in a part of Poland that is now Ukraine, said on his 1957 naturalization petition that he had Ukrainian citizenship. When their investigators showed up at his door in 1993, he said: "I would never have received my visa if I told the truth. Everyone lied."

A judge stripped Palij's U.S. citizenship in 2003 for "participation in acts against Jewish civilians" while he was an armed guard at the Trawniki camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and he was ordered deported a year later.

But because Germany, Poland, Ukraine and other countries refused to take him, he continued living in limbo in the two-story, red brick home in Queens he shared with his late wife, Maria. His continued presence there outraged the Jewish community, attracting frequent protests over the years that featured such chants as, "Your neighbour is a Nazi!"

According to the Justice Department, Palij served at Trawniki in 1943, the same year 6,000 prisoners in the camps and tens of thousands of other prisoners held in occupied Poland were rounded up and slaughtered. Palij has acknowledged serving in Trawniki but denied any involvement in war crimes.

Last September, all 29 members of New York's congressional delegation signed a letter urging the State Department to follow through on his deportation.

"Good riddance to this war criminal," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.

The deportation came after weeks of diplomatic negotiations.

Grenell told reporters there were "difficult conversations" because Palij is not a German citizen and was stateless after losing his U.S. citizenship. But "the moral obligation" of taking in "someone who served in the name of the German government was accepted," he said.

Video footage from ABC News showed federal immigration agents carrying Palij out of his home Monday on a stretcher. Palij, with a fluffy white beard and a brown, newsboy-style cap atop his head, was wrapped in a sheet as the agents carried him down a brick stairway in front of his home and into a waiting ambulance.

He ignored a reporter who shouted, "Are you a Nazi?" and "Do you have any regrets?"

Palij was flown on a specially chartered air ambulance from Teterboro, New Jersey, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany, at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Palij's lawyer, Ivars Berzins, declined to comment.

The local German government in Warendorf county, near Muenster, said Palij would be taken to a care facility in the town of Ahlen.

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."

Jens Rommel, head of the German federal prosecutors' office that investigates Nazi war crimes, said Tuesday that the deportation doesn't change the likelihood that Palij will be prosecuted for war crimes. "A new investigation would only come into question if something changed in the legal evaluation or actual new evidence became known," he said.

However, Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he hoped prosecutors would revisit the case now that Palij is in Germany.

"Trawniki was a camp where people were trained to round up and murder the Jews in Poland, so there's certainly a basis for some sort of prosecution," he said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem.



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