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DOJ immigration judge orders deportation of former Nazi concentration camp guard


'Berger was part of the SS machinery of oppression'

Ralph Kerpa/McPhoto/ullstein bild via Getty Images

A federal immigration judge has ordered the deportation of a German citizen found to have been a former guard at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

According to a Department of Justice news release issued Tuesday, a U.S. immigration court found that Friedrich Karl Berger was removable from the United States due to his "willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place."

Over the course of his trial, the immigration court determined that Berger — who is still a German citizen — had served as an armed guard at a Neuengamme sub-camp which was located near Meppen, Germany. The camps, according to the ruling, housed "Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Latvians, French, Italians," and political opponents of the Nazi regime.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the SS established Neuengamme in December 1938; by 1945, it had grown into a camp system with "approximately 80 subcamps at various locations in northern and central Germany."

The judge's ruling found that the prisoners who were held there during the winter of 1945 — while Berger was a guard — suffered "atrocious" living conditions and were subjected to forced labor "to the point of exhaustion and death."

By the end of 1944, "approximately 10,000-12,000 prisoners remained incarcerated in the Neuengamme concentration camp, with another 37,000-39,000 in the subcamps," the museum's site says. That winter, according to the museum, "1,700 prisoners died each month" and some 2,500 prisoners died that February alone.

The court also determined that Berger assisted with guarding and transporting prisoners during the Nazis' evacuation to the Neuengamme main camp during the allied forces' approach in the spring of 1945 — an ordeal which the Justice Department describes as "a nearly two-week trip under inhumane conditions, which claimed the lives of some 70 prisoners."

Holt's decision also cited Berger's admission that he never asked to be taken off concentration camp duty while working there.

The Justice Department noted that Berger was found to be removable under the terms of the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act. The amendment allows for the deportation of any alien who "ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person because of race, religion, national origin, or political opinion" during World War II under the direction of the Nazi regime or in association with it.

"Berger was part of the SS machinery of oppression that kept concentration camp prisoners in atrocious conditions of confinement," Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Department of Justice's Criminal Division said in a statement. "This ruling shows the Department's continued commitment to obtaining a measure of justice, however late, for the victims of wartime Nazi persecution."

According to a news release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the investigation against Berger was initially started by the Justice Department's Human Rights and Special Prosecution Section and was conducted alongside ICE's Homeland Security Investigations Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center and HSI's Nashville Special Agent in Charge office.

The decision comes well over a year after the Trump administration deported another former concentration camp guard, Jakiw Palij, back to Germany in August 2018. He died a few months later.

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