Berlin, Aug 21 (IANS) A 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard was deported to Germany from the US on Tuesday after years of diplomatic wrangling over his status.
Jakiw Palij landed at Düsseldorf airport in the morning. He has been stateless since a federal judge revoked his US citizenship in 2003. Germany refused to accept him for years as he never had German nationality, the BBC reported.
After his arrival in Germany, he was taken to a care home for the elderly. The US Ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell, praised Germany’s new government for resolving the case.
Palij is accused of having lied to gain entry to the US almost 70 years ago, claiming he was a Polish farmer. Almost 20 years ago, the US authorities determined that he had been a member of the SS, the elite corps of the Nazi party, and had worked at the Trawniki concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, the Guardian reported.
The camp trained soldiers to round up Jews for extermination. In 2005, a US judge ordered his expulsion.
However, German authorities resisted taking him, saying the crimes he was alleged to have carried out took place on foreign soil. He was believed to be the last Nazi collaborator still living in the US. His residence in the Queens area of New York City attracted protests from residents.
A White House statement said Palij served as an armed guard and had played an “indispensable role” in ensuring Jews were killed. He arrived in the US in 1949 and was given citizenship in 1957.
Although a US court had ruled that he assisted in the persecution of prisoners, he was not found personally responsible for deaths. Palij himself has denied collaborating with the Nazis.
The US authorities were unable to persuade Germany, Ukraine or Poland to take him in. He never had German citizenship and originated from an area of Poland that is now Ukraine.
The US Ambassador said a change of heart came with the advent of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new Cabinet earlier this year.
Centre-left Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper that Germany had a “moral duty” to “come to terms with and face up to the crimes of the Nazi reign of terror”.