U.S. deports accused former Nazi guard to Germany

Hillel Goldman associate principal of the Orthodox Jewish Rambam Mesivta High School speaks as he and students from the school protest former Nazi concentration camp guard Jakiw Palij 94 Thursday Nov. 9 2017 in Jackson Heights New York

Palij was born in Poland (present-day Ukraine), the Justice Department says, and he became a US citizen in 1957.

"To protect the promise of freedom for Holocaust survivors and their families, President Trump prioritized the removal of Pali", the statement continued.

Palij also likely took part in one of the worst massacres of the war at Trawniki Labor Camp. Approximately 6,000 Jewish children, women, and men were shot on a single day, November 3, 1943.

But he remained at his Queens home for years afterward because those countries refused to take him.

"By serving as an armed guard at the Trawniki Labor Camp and preventing the escape of Jewish prisoners during his Nazi service, Palij played an indispensable role in ensuring that the Trawniki Jewish victims met their horrific fate at the hands of the Nazis", the White House statement said.

The Bild newspaper reported that German prosecutors had opened a criminal investigation against Palij in 2015 but closed the case for lack of evidence. A NY immigration judge revoked Palij's USA citizenship and ordered him to be deported in 2005.

The White House said in a statement that immigration authorities carried out the deportation order early Tuesday.

"He (Trump) told me directly to make it a priority, to get the Nazi out", Mr Grenell told reporters.

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"They saw this as a moral obligation that they had, not so much a legal obligation", said Grenell, noting that Palij had worked as a guard for the then-German government.

He told immigration officials that he worked during the war in a woodshop and farm in Nazi-occupied Poland; at another farm in Germany; and finally in a German upholstery factory.

Palij served at Trawniki in 1943, the same year 6,000 prisoners in the camps and tens of thousands of others held in occupied Poland were rounded up and killed.

Republicans on Tuesday swiftly sought to turn the overnight deportation of an alleged Nazi collaborator from USA soil into a rallying cry for Immigration and Customs Enforcement - the agency that physically removed him - and a political cudgel against Democrats who've questioned its mission.

But none of the European countries to which he could have been deported would accept him, sparking concerns he would be allowed to live out his final years peacefully at his Jackson Heights Home, which has witnessed protests from anti-Nazi protesters.

In 2011, he was convicted of being an accessory to more than 28,000 killings and died 10 months later with his appeal pending.

Investigators first confronted Palij about his wartime activities 25 years ago after finding his name on an old Nazi roster and a fellow former guard revealing that he was "living somewhere in America". 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". "United States administrators, senators, congressmen, and representatives of the Jewish communities in the U.S. emphasize that people who served the criminal NS regime should not spend the twilight of their lives in the country of their choice, the USA".

"The US administration, senators, members of Congress and representatives of the Jewish community in the United States stress that people who served the rogue Nazi regime should not be able to live out their twilight years in peace in their country of choice, the United States", the ministry added.

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