95-year-old former Nazi guard deported from Queens to Germany

Tuesday, August 21, 2018
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Candace McCowan has the latest on the deportation live from Jackson Heights.

JACKSON HEIGHTS, Queens (WABC) -- ICE agents captured a suspected notorious Nazi war criminal who had lived in Queens for decades.

Exclusive ABC News video showed agents remove 95-year-old Jakiw Palij on a stretcher from his Jackson Heights home Monday. He was deported early Tuesday morning to Germany.

Palij, a former armed guard at a concentration camp, had lived in the United States since 1949 and became a citizen less than a decade later, concealing his Nazi service, the White House said.

"I would never have received my visa if I told the truth. Everyone lied," Palij told Justice Department investigators in 1993.

After the war, Palij maintained friendships with other Nazi guards who the government said came to the U.S. under similar false pretenses. And in an interesting coincidence, Palij and his wife purchased their home near LaGuardia Airport in 1966 from a Polish Jewish couple who had survived the Holocaust and were not aware of his past.

The Justice Department's special Nazi-hunting unit began investigating Palij in 1990 after fellow Nazi guards identified him to Canadian authorities in 1989.

In 2011, Palij finally admitted to working as an armed guard at the Trawniki camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

According to the Justice Department, Palij served at Trawniki in 1943, the same year 6,000 prisoners in the camps and tens of thousands of other prisoners held in occupied Poland were rounded up and slaughtered.

Palij has admitted serving in Trawniki but denied any involvement in war crimes. Palij suggested during a 2001 interview with the Justice Department that he was threatened with death if he refused to work as a guard, saying "if you don't show up, boom-boom."

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who serves New York's 48th District, was one of several protestors who fought for years for Palij's deportation.

"My mother was at Auschwitz, my grandparents were murdered, went straight to the gas chambers, and here is Palij living here freely in Jackson Heights," Assem. Dov Hikind said.

A judge stripped Palij's citizenship in 2003 for "participation in acts against Jewish civilians," and he was deported a year later.

But Germany refused to take him, and he continued to live in Queens for the next 15 years.

President Donald Trump, who is from Queens, told the U.S. ambassador to Germany to make Palij's deportation a priority, and the deportation came after weeks of diplomatic negotiations.

"Palij's removal sends a strong message: The United States will not tolerate those who facilitated Nazi crimes and other human rights violations, and they will not find a safe haven on American soil, "the White House Press Secretary said in a statement.

Palij landed in the western German city of Duesseldorf on Tuesday. German prosecutors have previously said it does not appear that there's enough evidence to charge Palij with wartime crimes.

Hikind applauded the move.

"It wasn't even about putting him on trial, just gethim out of this wonderful country that we live in," Hikind said. "The last Nazi, this is the last Nazi."

Now that Palij is in Germany, it is not clear what the next steps are and if he'll be prosecuted. He denied that he was a Nazi collaborator.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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