Students from Rambam Mesivta-Maimonides High School protest outside the home of Jakiw Palij in the Queens borough of New York City, US, April 24, 2017.
(photo credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)
The United States deported a 95-year-old former Nazi prison guard to Germany early Tuesday morning.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials removed Jakiw Palij from his home in Queens, New York, 14 years after a US court ordered his deportation.
“President Trump commends his administration’s comprehensive actions, especially ICE’s actions, in removing this war criminal from US soil,” the White House press secretary said in a statement.
“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.”
The White House said that Germany agreed to accept Palij “through extensive negotiations.”
Palij is believed to be the last known Nazi collaborator living in the United States.
He arrived in the US in 1949, and was granted citizenship in 1957. After his wartime history was uncovered, Palij was stripped of his citizenship and ordered deported by a US judge. But the order was not carried out for years, in large part because no other country agreed to take him.
In the past, Germany repeatedly stated that it would not accept Palij since he was not a German citizen. Palij was born in Poland and served as a guard at the Trawniki forced labor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, in November 1943, at least 6,000 Jewish inmates of the camp were shot to death in one day by guards.
Many New York officials worked for years to have Palij deported. New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind held regular protests outside Palij’s home in Queens, as did several local Jewish groups.
In November, a Trump administration official promised Hikind that it would “pursue every avenue” in removing Palij from the country.
On Tuesday, the assemblyman praised Trump for his efforts.
“I never gave up on this issue because Palij’s presence here mocked the memory of the millions who perished,” Hikind said.
“There was no question of his guilt. It was imperative that someone responsible for Nazi atrocities be held accountable for his crimes.
While his victims can no longer seek justice, I am delighted that our president’s administration took it upon themselves to deliver justice.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center also welcomed the deportation on Tuesday.
“The United States officials involved in this case, and especially OSI Director Eli M. Rosenbaum, deserve enormous credit for their unflagging efforts to have Palij removed from the United States,” said the Wiesenthal Center’s Efraim Zuroff on Tuesday.
“A 14-year-long campaign has finally been crowned with success. Trawniki guards do not deserve the privilege of living in the United States and that was finally achieved last night.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told ABC News on Tuesday that he was glad to hear the news.
“I’m glad this man is finally being sent back,” Schumer said. “He’s a war criminal and did not deserve to live in the US. He doesn’t deserve to die in the US, a place of freedom and equality where we respect each other’s differences.”
Paul Packer, chairman of the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, thanked the president and US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell for “proving that justice and righteousness will prevail over hatred and evil.
“Yesterday’s arrest is a stark reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust, at a time when antisemitism is on the rise and Holocaust denial is flourishing unfettered on social media platforms like Facebook,” Packer said. “While we solemnly appreciate the president’s unwavering pursuit of justice, we must also remember to heed one of the great lessons of the Holocaust: never to stand idly by when we observe cultural or religious intolerance.”
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