State Department officials announced Tuesday the deportation to Germany of a 95-year-old former Nazi prison-camp guard who emigrated to the U.S. under false pretenses in 1957.
Jakiw Palij, a resident of Queens, New York, was investigated and ultimately de-naturalized in 2004 after his Nazi service was revealed, but authorities have struggled to deport him since that time due to Germany’s unwillingness to accept him. The circumstances of Pajil’s birth further complicated his deportation: He was born in what was then Poland but is now considered Ukrainian territory and both countries, like Germany, had refused to accept him.
U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell led the deportation effort at the behest of President Trump. The president took a personal interest in the process due to his longstanding familiarity with the case and its coverage in New York tabloids, according to the Daily Caller.
Palij, who gained citizenship after claiming he worked as a farmer during World War II, is the 68th Nazi removed from the U.S. since the war’s end.
“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,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an overnight statement.
A historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum served as an expert witness on Palij’s case and the museum has confirmed that he participated in “Operation Reinhard” — a plan designed to murder 2,000,000 Polish Jews — through his service as a guard at the Trawniki labor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
“On Nov. 3, 1943, some 6,000 Jewish men, women and children incarcerated at Trawniki were shot to death in one of the largest single massacres of the Holocaust. 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 Department of Justice said in a statement.
Palij has long maintained that he only served as a prison guard to prevent the Nazi leadership from targeting his family.
“We knew they would kill me and my family if I refused,” he told the New York Times in 2003. “I did it to save their lives.”
IN THE NEWS: ‘Protestors Topple Confederate Statue’