A Tennessee-based former Nazi camp guard will be deported to his native Germany for ‘being an active participant in one of the darkest chapters in history’ after an appeal was dismissed.
An Immigration Court judge ordered the removal of Friedrich Karl Berger, 94, from the US in February due to his service at Neuengamme concentration camp in 1945.
Judge Rebecca Holt made the ruling based on Berger’s ‘willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place’.
The judge added that Berger never requested a transfer from concentration camp guard service and that he is still a German citizen who receives a pension ‘for wartime service’.
Berger had attempted to overturn the decision ordered under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment, which rules that any person who ‘participated in Nazi persecution, genocide’ or allowed ‘any act of torture or extrajudicial killing’ is subject to deportation.
But the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) revealed in a press release that it had dismissed Berger’s attempts on Thursday – just one day before the 75th anniversary of the start of the Nuremberg trials of surviving Nazi leaders and officers.
Louis A. Rodi III, of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said: ‘Berger was an active participant in one of the darkest chapters in human history.
‘He attempted to shed his nefarious past to come to America and start anew, but thanks to the dedication of those at the Department of Justice and Homeland Security Investigations, the truth was revealed.
‘War criminals and violators of human rights will not be allowed to evade justice and find safe haven here.’
Berger served at a sub-camp near Meppen, the court found, where prisoners were held during the winter of 1945 in ‘atrocious’ conditions and forced to work ‘to the point of exhaustion and death.’
The court heard Berger admit that he guarded prisoners to stop them from escaping ‘during their dawn-to-dusk workday’.
After the Nazis abandoned Meppen in late March, as allied British and Canadian forces advanced, Berger also helped guard the prisoners during their forcible evacuation to the Neuengamme main camp.
The nearly two-week trip under inhumane conditions claimed the lives of around 70 prisoners, who included ‘Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Latvians, French, Italians, and political opponents’.
Berger arrived legally in the US with his late wife and daughter in 1959 and made a living building wire-stripping machines, reported the Washington Post.
But his past caught up with him when a set of SS index cards revealing his service record were recovered along with other documents from a German ship that had sunk in the Baltic Sea.
The cards were discovered among skeletons in 1950 and transcribed but it was decades before they were linked to Berger.
Following the decision in February, Berger told the Post in March: ‘After 75 years, this is ridiculous. I cannot believe it.’
He added: ‘You’re forcing me out of my home… I was 19 years old. I was ordered to go there.’
Announcing the decision to reject Berger’s appeal, Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt said: ‘Berger’s willing service as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp cannot be erased and will not be ignored.’
He added: ‘This case shows that the passage of time will not deter the department from fulfilling the moral imperative of seeking justice for the victims of their heinous crimes.’
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