A 95-year-old man who served as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II was deported back to Germany from Tennessee "for participating in Nazi-sponsored acts of persecution,” the US Justice Department said in a statement on Friday.
Friedrich Karl Berger was removed from the U.S. this month after the court determined that his "willing service" as a guard of concentration camp prisoners in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp system ”constituted assistance in Nazi-sponsored persecution," the Justice Department said.
Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson said in a statement that Berger's removal from the U.S. demonstrates the department's "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."
Wilkinson said the department gathered evidence found in archives here and in Europe, including records of the historic trial at Nuremberg, which he cited as the trial of “the most notorious former leaders of the defeated Nazi regime.”
Wilkinson noted that this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg convictions, and stressed that “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.”
Berger was removed under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment, which prohibits anyone who participated in Nazi persecution from living in the US. The Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the ruling in November 2020.
A 2020 trial found that Berger served the Nazi regime at a Neuengamme sub-camp near Meppen, Germany and that the prisoners there included “Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Latvians, French, Italians, and political opponents of the Nazis. The Department said the largest groups of prisoners held at the camp in the winter of 1945 were Russian, Dutch, and Polish civilians.
The conditions, the judge ruled, were "atrocious," as the prisoners were forced to conduct labor outdoors "to the point of exhaustion and death," the department said.
The court found that Berger helped guard the prisoners until the Nazis evacuated it in March 1945, at which time the prisoners were forced to go to Neuengamme camp. The nearly two-week trip was done under inhumane conditions, which claimed the lives of some 70 people, the department said, CBS News reported.
Berger admitted during the trial that he guarded the prisoners and prevented them from escaping, U.S. officials said. He also admitted that he never requested to be transferred from his post as a concentration camp guard, the department said, the news outlet reported.
According to the DOJ, Berger was a citizen of Germany and continued to receive a pension from Germany based on his employment in Germany, “including his wartime service.’
Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tae Johnson said the department is “committed to ensuring the United States will not serve as a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals.”
“We will never cease to pursue those who persecute others,” Johnson said. “This case exemplifies the steadfast dedication of both ICE and the Department of Justice to pursue justice and to hunt relentlessly for those who participated in one of history’s greatest atrocities, no matter how long it takes.”
The Justice Department’s program to investigate and remove Nazi persecutors began in 1979. Since the program’s inception, the department has won cases against 109 individuals.
Berger was the 70th Nazi persecutor removed from the United States, cited the department.