Jakiw Palij is a 95-year-old man, a US citizen, and a former Nazi camp guard. The US deported the ex-Nazi to Germany early Tuesday morning. Palij has been living under the radar in Queens, New York City since the 1950’s and a judge stripped him of his citizenship back in 2003. Palij was scheduled to be deported by 2004 but the US government struggled to find a country that would take the ex-Nazi guard. After more than a decade later, Germany accepted the offer proposed by the US.
The Justice Department accuses Palij of “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.”
Palij originally claimed that during the war he worked as a farm hand and spent time as a factory worker. As time passed, his dark past surfaced and neighborhood protesters gathered. During Palij’s time at Trawniki, 12,000 Jews were imprisoned and over 6,000 were massacred on November 3, 1943.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the following statement:
“The United States will never be a safe haven for those who have participated in atrocities, war crimes, and human rights abuses. Jakiw Palij lied about his Nazi past to immigrate to this country and then fraudulently become an American citizen. He had no right to citizenship or to even be in this country.”
Palij is quoted in the New York Times:
“They came and took me when I was 18. We knew they would kill me and my family if I refused. I did it to save their lives, and I never even wore a Nazi uniform. They made us wear gray guards’ uniforms and had us guarding bridges and rivers.’’
Heiko Maas, a German politician and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, worked closely on Palij’s case. Maas spoke with the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
“We accept the moral obligation of Germany, in whose name terrible injustice was committed under the Nazis. We are taking responsibility vis-à-vis the victims of National Socialism and our international partners — even if that demands of us what are at times politically difficult considerations.”
Palij will likely live out the rest of his days in a nursing home in northwest Germany.