The last-known Nazi collaborator from World War II living in the United States — a 95-year-old former camp guard who played an "indispensable role" in the death of roughly 6,000 Jews in one of the single largest massacres of the Holocaust in 1943 — was deported to Germany early Tuesday morning, Fox News reported.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents implemented a deportation order against Jakiw Palij dating to 2004, the network said. Palij immigrated to the U.S. in 1949 and became a citizen in 1957 after concealing his Nazi background, Fox News said — but getting him out of the country proved a difficult process.
"It's really a credit to President Trump, who was very clear about this case, made clear he wanted this individual out of the United States," Richard Grenell — the U.S. ambassador to Germany who arrived there earlier this year after Democrats delayed his nomination for months — told the network.
Grenell told Fox News that Trump instructed him to make Palij's removal a priority and that the new German government, which took office in March, brought "new energy" to the process.
What made Palij's deportation difficult?
Grenell told the network that deporting Palij — who lived in New York City — was "difficult" because Palij is not a German citizen and was effectively "stateless" after losing his U.S. citizenship.
"[Germany] had a moral obligation, not necessarily a legal one, because he worked in the name of the then-German government," the ambassador told Fox News, adding that in the end Germany's new foreign and interior ministers both "wanted to work with President Trump to make this happen."
Image source: YouTube screenshot
More from the network:
Palij admitted to Department of Justice officials in 2003 that he trained at a Nazi camp in German-occupied Poland. Court documents indicated that men who trained at the SS Training camp in Trawniki carried out the Nazi regime’s plan to murder Jews in Poland.
The 95-year-old also served as an armed guard at the adjacent Trawniki Labor Camp – where he played an “indispensable role” in the death of roughly 6,000 Jews who were killed in one of the single largest massacres of the Holocaust in 1943, according to the statement.
Palij, who claimed he was working on a farm and in a factory during World War II, had his U.S. citizenship revoked in 2003 by a federal judge, and ordered to be deported a year later. His appeal was denied in 2005.
After the war, Palij maintained friendships with other Nazi guards who the government says came to the U.S. under similar false pretenses. And in an interesting coincidence, Palij and his wife purchased their Queens home near LaGuardia Airport in 1966 from a Polish Jewish couple who had survived the Holocaust and were not aware of his past.
“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,” the statement read, Fox News said.
Image source: YouTube screenshot
What will happen to Palij?
Grenell told the network "it's in the hands of the Germans" to determine what will happen to Palij.
"The fact is we have a president who really wants to fight for the American people, make sure that the rule of law is followed," he added to Fox News.