(August 21, 2018 / JNS) After years of unsuccessful attempts, the United States finally deported Nazi collaborator Jakiw Palij on Tuesday morning to Germany, where his fate is currently unknown, although German prosecutors have previously said there may not be sufficient evidence to charge the 95-year-old with war crimes.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out the 2004 order of deportation for Palij, a former SS guard at the Trawniki labor camp in Poland, which was part of “Operation Reinhard,” when the Nazis murdered as many as 2 million Polish Jews between October 1941 and November 1943. On Nov. 3, 1943, the Nazis shot approximately 6,000 Jewish inmates to death.
Previous administrations were unable to remove Palij, who said he was forced to be a guard, from U.S. soil due to Poland, Germany, Ukraine and other nations refusing to accept him.
However, Germany’s Foreign Office said its decision to admit Palij, the last-known Nazi war criminal in the United States, demonstrated the country accepting “moral responsibility.”
“To protect the promise of freedom for Holocaust survivors and their families, President Trump prioritized the removal of Palij,” according to a White House statement. “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 2001, Palij confessed to U.S. Department of Justice officials he was a guard at Trawniki.
Two years later, a federal judge revoked Palij’s U.S. citizenship, which he obtained in 1957, due to his complicity in the Nazi regime and for falsely telling U.S. immigration officials that he worked on a farm and in a factory during World War II.
Groups like the Zionist Organization of America and the Simon Wiesenthal Center praised the move.
“The ZOA strongly praises and thanks President Donald Trump and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell for ICE’s deportation of Nazi war criminal Jakiw Palij from Queens, N.Y., to Germany this morning,” said ZOA President Mort Klein, a son of Holocaust survivors. “It is impressive and gratifying that the Trump administration achieved what eluded prior administrations.”
“A 14-year-long campaign has finally been crowned with success,” said Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “Trawniki guards do not deserve the privilege of living in the United States, and that was finally achieved last night.”
The U.S. government has “prioritized the identification, prosecution and deportation of Nazi war criminals since the 1970s,” according to the White House.