The ‘last Nazi in America’ deported to Germany
Suspect aged 95 expelled after 13-year stand-off, but is unlikely to stand trial
The US has deported the last known Nazi war criminal living in the country to Germany, bringing to an end a 13-year stand-off between the two countries.
Jakiw Palij, 95, was first identified as a member of the elite SS taskforce who had worked at the Trawniki concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, which trained soldiers to round up Jews for extermination, in 1993 but his citizenship was not revoked until 10 years later.
In 2005 a judge ordered his expulsion, but German authorities refused to take him, saying the crimes he is alleged to have carried out took place on foreign soil. The US was unable to prosecute him on the same grounds while both Poland and Ukraine claimed it was Germany’s responsibility.
This left Palij, who had initially claimed he was a Polish farmer when he first arrived in the US in 1949, in legal limbo.
What followed was more than a decade of diplomatic pressure, during which time he continued to live in New York, much to the chagrin of the local Jewish community.
Last September, all 29 members of New York’s congressional delegation signed a letter urging the state department to push through his deportation.
Richard Grenell, the US ambassador who arrived in Germany earlier this year, said President Donald Trump, a native New Yorker, instructed him to make the issue a priority.
Finally yesterday, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas, announced his country had agreed to take him in because it faces a “moral responsibility” for the crimes of the Nazis.
The Guardian says the precedent for his deportation was set by the case of John Demjanjuk, who was deported from his adopted home in the US in 2009 and found guilty by a Munich court of taking part in the murders of 28,000 people in the Sobibór concentration camp in Poland. Demjanjuk died in Germany in 2012.
Despite this, Palij “is thought unlikely to face prosecution over his alleged crimes because there is not enough documentary evidence against him”, says the Daily Telegraph