A 95-year-old resident of Tennessee who was a guard at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II was deported back to his home country of Germany Saturday. Friedrich Karl Berger, a German citizen, was sent to Germany because of his role as an armed guard at the Neuengamme concentration camp system near Hamburg, the Department of Justice said. A U.S: immigration judge ordered Berger removed from the United States in February of last year due to his “willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place,” DOJ said. Berger was ordered to be removed from the United States under a 1978 law known as the Holtzman Amendment that forbids anyone who participated in Nazi persecution from living in the United States.
After a two-day trial in February of last year, the judge ruled that prisoners at the camp where Berger worked were held in “atrocious” conditions and were forced to work “to the point of exhaustion and death.” Berger admitted he worked as a guard and prevented prisoners from escaping. He also acknowledged he never requested a transfer and was still receiving a pension from Germany. At the time, Berger was incredulous at what was happening to him in a country that he had called home since 1959. “After 75 years, this is ridiculous. I cannot believe it,” he told the Washington Post. “I cannot understand how this can happen in a country like this. You’re forcing me out of my home.”
It’s unclear whether Germany will take steps against Berger. German prosecutors said he would be questioned for accessory to murder but he was not taken into custody after arriving on a medical transport plane at Frankfurt Airport on Saturday, according to Germany’s Deutsche Welle. Prosecutors had previously suspended an investigation into Berger due to a “lack of sufficient suspicion.” At the time, the prosecutors said that admitting to being a guard was not the same as admitting to killing prisoners and they had not been able to link him “to a concrete act of killing.”
The Department of Justice said Berger was the 70th Nazi persecutor deported from the United States. “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,” said Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson. Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson added that “we are committed to ensuring the United States will not serve as a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals.”