95-Year Old Tennessean Deported From US To Germany After Admitting He’d Been A Nazi Camp Guard
In one of the last known cases of its kind considering it’s now 2021 – and it’s now been over 75 years since the end of WWII – on Saturday a 95-year old “former Nazi guard” was deported back to Germany in a headline grabbing story.
Friedrich Karl Berger was found living in Tennessee and in a February 2020 court hearing he admitted to having guarded a concentration camp in his native Germany when he was 19-years old. As an armed guard in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp system, he was tasked with ensuring prisoners didn’t escape, and also assisted in transfers of wartime inmates.
Amazingly, Berger was still receiving a pension from the German government for his wartime service. He had been living in the United States since 1959.
The Memphis judge said his deportation rested on his admitting involvement in “Nazi-sponsored persecution” and further the DOJ in a statement said the US is not “a safe haven for those who have participated in Nazi crimes.”
However, it’s unclear the degree to which the former guard had any involvement in direct persecution of Jewish prisoners. Here are the details of Berger’s time as a guard, according to NBC:
The camp was abandoned in March 1945 and Berger helped move the prisoners to another camp, the court found. The nearly two-week trip to the new location was done under “inhumane conditions” and some 70 prisoners died, officials said.
Berger acknowledged during his trial that he guarded the prisoners to prevent them from escaping, did not request a transfer from the concentration camp, and was still receiving a pension from Germany for his wartime service, according to federal officials.
Berger’s defense at last year’s hearing was that he was “forced” to work in the camp as a mere teenager and that he later fled to the United States to start a better life, where he worked building wire-stripping machines.
“He admitted serving as a guard for a few weeks near the end of the war, but said he did not observe any abuse or killings, the German news agency dpa reported,” Sky News writes. The camp reportedly held “Russian, Polish, Dutch, Jewish and other prisoners,” according to reports.
He said last year as the deportation proceedings were being prepared:
“After 75 years, this is ridiculous. I cannot believe it. I cannot understand how this can happen in a country like this. You’re forcing me out of my home.”
ICE deported a 95-year-old former Nazi armed guard from Tennessee back to Germany on Friday. Friedrich Karl Berger was given a deportation order in February 2020 after a court found he participated in Nazi-sponsored acts of persecution. https://t.co/1DSmJi6cJi
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) February 20, 2021
But Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson framed it as related to continuing justice for Holocaust victims, saying, “The Department marshaled evidence that our Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section found in archives here and in Europe, including records of the historic trial at Nuremberg of the most notorious former leaders of the defeated Nazi regime,”
The DOJ statement said further: “In this year in which we mark the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg convictions, 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.”
Germany says it doesn’t plan to prosecute him, citing lack of evidence for specific war crimes.
Sun, 02/21/2021 – 09:55