Monday, February 22, 2021

95-year-old former Nazi guard extradited from Tennessee to Germany

 A 95-year-old man who lived in Tennessee was deported to Germany on Saturday, one year after a federal judge found that he had served as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp where prisoners were forced to work outdoors “to the point of exhaustion and death.”

The deportation of the former guard, Friedrich Karl Berger, capped what could be the last prosecution by the U.S. government of collaborators in Nazi war crimes as most of the targets have died in the more than 75 years since the end of World War II.

The Justice Department said Mr. Berger had served as an armed guard at a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp near Meppen, Germany, where Danes, Dutch, French, Italians, Jews, Latvians, Poles and Russians as well as political opponents of the Nazis were imprisoned in “atrocious” conditions and forced to dig anti-tank fortifications in the dead of winter.

At the end of March 1945, when the Nazis abandoned Meppen to escape advancing British and Canadian forces, Mr. Berger helped to guard the prisoners during their forcible evacuation to the main camp, a nearly two-week march under inhumane conditions that claimed the lives of some 70 prisoners, the department said.

The entire Neuengamme system — which included scores of camps — imprisoned some 100,000 men and women, about 40,000 to 55,000 of whom died, the Justice Department said. Between 3,000 to 4,000 people were imprisoned at two Meppen subcamps, one of which Mr. Berger guarded.

During a two-day trial in February 2020, Mr. Berger acknowledged that he had guarded prisoners to prevent them from escaping as they worked from dawn to dusk, and as they traveled to work sites and back to the camp, the Justice Department said. Mr. Berger also acknowledged that he never requested a transfer from concentration camp guard service and that he had continued to receive a pension from Germany based in part on his “wartime service.”

In November 2020, the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld an immigration judge’s decision that Mr. Berger was removable under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act because his “willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place” constituted assistance in Nazi-sponsored persecution.

“Berger’s removal demonstrates the Department of Justice’s and its law enforcement partners’ commitment to ensuring that the United States is not a safe haven for those who have participated in Nazi crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses,” Monty Wilkinson, the acting attorney general, said in a statement.

“In this year in which we mark the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg convictions, this case shows that the passage, even of many decades, will not deter the department from pursuing justice on behalf of the victims of Nazi crimes,” Mr. Wilkinson said.

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