President Trump Deports WWII Nazi Collaborator
By Heather Ham-Warren | August 24, 2018
This week, a 95-year-old former Nazi collaborator, who served as a labor camp guard during World War II was finally deported to Germany after a long immigration battle in the United States. Jakiw Palij worked as a guard at the Trawniki Labor Camp in (what was then) German-occupied Poland. On November 3, 1943, as part of the Nazi’s “Operation Harvest Festival,” around 6,000 Jewish prisoners at the camp were shot to death in trenches they were forced to dig themselves.
Although Palij fervently denies collaborating with Nazis, insisting he was forced to work at the concentration camp, experts disagree. Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, has said that this was a frequent and unconvincing line of defense. "To work at those camps, you had to be eager to be there...They only took people they knew were loyal and brutal and not sympathetic to pleas of the inmates."
Palij immigrated to the United States in 1949 and became a citizen in 1957. At the time, he lied to U.S. immigration officials about his role in the war, saying that he worked on a farm and in a factory during the war. It was not until much later that federal authorities learned of Palij’s true involvement as a guard, and his citizenship was revoked in 2003. The United States cannot criminally prosecute World War II crimes that were carried out overseas, but Palij’s deportation was ordered in 2004 after a judge said he had falsified his immigration application.
Despite his deportation order, Palij remained in the United States for more than a decade because no other nation was willing to take him. After his citizenship was revoked Palij appeared unfazed. At one point he said, "What will they do? Shoot me? Put me in the electric chair? Where are they going to deport me to? What country is going to take an 80-year-old man in poor health?"
Since his inauguration, President Trump has been very clear that restoring integrity to our immigration system is a top priority for his administration. In fact, Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, says he had recently been raising the question of Palij's deportation in every single meeting he had in Germany, based in part on President Trump's particular interest in the case. Finally, Germany agreed to accept Palij. Germany's Foreign Office said its decision to take Palij showed the country was accepting its "moral responsibility," despite the fact that he is not a German citizen.
The administration released a statement after Palij landed in Germany early Tuesday:
President Trump commends his Administration’s comprehensive actions, especially Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) actions, in removing this war criminal from United States soil. Despite a court ordering his deportation in 2004, past administrations were unsuccessful in removing Palij. To protect the promise of freedom for Holocaust survivors and their families, President Trump prioritized the removal of Palij. Through extensive negotiations, President Trump and his team secured Palij’s deportation to Germany and advanced the United States’ collaborative efforts with a key European ally.
Interestingly, while living in the United States, Palij lived in New York’s 14th District, which has recently been in the news as being the home of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Socialist running for Congress. Ocasio-Cortez has been vocal that her agenda includes abolishing ICE, and has been known to fundraise with a group that actually encourages the harassment of ICE employees. Unfortunately, despite the agency removing a literal Nazi from her district, Ocasio-Cortez does not appear to have altered her extremist views.