ICE Deports Former Nazi Labor Camp Guard

WASHINGTON—A 95-year-old former Nazi labor camp guard was deported from the United States to Germany on Aug. 20, according to administration officials.

Jakiw Palij worked as an armed guard at the Trawniki slave-labor camp for Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said. He hid his involvement from immigration officials, both when he immigrated from Germany in 1949 and when he subsequently became a citizen in 1957.

He had been living in Queens, New York.

“The United States will never be a safe haven for those who have participated in atrocities, war crimes, and human rights abuses,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement on Aug. 21.

“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 concealed his Nazi service by telling U.S. immigration officials that he “had spent the war years working until 1944 on his father’s farm in his hometown—which was previously a part of Poland and is now in Ukraine—and then in a German factory,” according to the DOJ.

Palij admitted his past to the DOJ’s special investigations team in 2001—that he was trained at the SS Training Camp in Trawniki, in Nazi-occupied Poland, in the spring of 1943.

“Documents subsequently filed in court by the Justice Department showed that men who trained at Trawniki participated in implementing the Third Reich’s plan to murder Jews in Poland, code-named ‘Operation Reinhard,’” the DOJ stated.

“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.”

Palij’s U.S. citizenship was revoked in August 2003 and he was placed in removal proceedings in November 2003. In August 2004 an immigration judge ordered Palij deported to Ukraine, Poland, or Germany, “or any other country that would admit him.” He lost a subsequent appeal in 2005.

The U.S. State Department expressed “deep appreciation” to Germany for accepting Palij back.

Palij is the 68th former Nazi to be removed from the United States.

A Survivor’s Reaction

In an Aug. 21 interview, Holocaust survivor Manny Drukier, 89, wondered about Palij’s current state of mind.

“As a former inmate, now 89, who was in 1942-45 near the place where Jakiw Palij gruesomely participated, I wonder if his experience is a burdensome load to bring with him to Munster?” Drukier said.

Drukier, born in Lodz, Poland, was interned in several concentration camps—Kielce and Czestochowa in occupied Poland, then Buchenwald and its satellite camp Floessberg in Germany.

At war’s end he emigrated to New York, but when he discovered his mother and sister were alive and living in Toronto he joined them there. He is the author of “Carved in Stone: Holocaust Years – a Boy’s Tale,” and a documentary film is in progress about his life. (Disclosure: he is the father of editorial staff member, Cindy Drukier)

Drukier said whichever German community or retirement home that Palij is now joining should be made aware of his background.

“Perhaps his fellows now sharing meals with him would consider themselves deprived if not told of their seatmate’s past,” he said.

Cindy Drukier contributed to this report.

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