The last known Nazi in the United States has died at the age of 95 in a nursing home in the town of Ahlen, German, months after being deported last year from his home in Jackson Heights, Queens.
Former Nazi concentration camp guard Jakiw Palij, an ethnic Ukrainian, entered the United States in 1949 under the Displaced Persons Act and told immigration officials he worked during the war in a woodshop and farm in Nazi-occupied Poland, a farm in Germany, and then in a German upholstery factory. He also claimed he had never served in the military.
He lived quietly in the city for decades until his past was revealed – a past the U.S. Justice Department said included an essential role in the Nazi ‘final solution’ to exterminate Jews, working as an armed guard at the Trawniki training camp southeast of Lublin, in German-occupied Poland.
The Justice Department complaint included information that revealed Palij served in a unit that “committed atrocities against Polish civilians and others,” and then in the notorious SS Streibel Battalion, “a unit whose function was to round up and guard thousands of Polish civilian forced laborers.”
It took 25 years for protesters, lawmakers and others to fight for Palij’s removal from the United States, even after his past was revealed. There were frequent protests in front of his house, with chants like “Your neighbor is a Nazi!”
“I would never have received my visa if I had told the truth,” he told American investigators who began the process in 1993. “Everyone lied.”
Nevertheless, in 2003, he was at last stripped of his U.S. citizenship by a judge for “participation in acts against Jewish civilians” and ordered deported a year later. Finding a country to take him, however, was another story: Germany, Poland, Ukraine and others refused to accept him. It wasn’t until 2018 that Germany finally acceded.
U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell, who lobbied Germany to accept Palij, credited U.S. President Donald Trump with ensuring that he was taken from his Queens home on a stretcher and put on a plane to Germany in August 2018.
“It would have been upsetting to many Americans if he had died in the U.S. in … a comfortable escape,” Grenell said, according to The Associated Press.