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
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
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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