The U.S. Immigration Court ruled in the expulsion of 95-year-old Friedrich Karl Berger as early as February 2020. He cited “willing service as an armed guard in a concentration camp where Nazi minorities were persecuted.”
Berger was able to be expelled from the country thanks to the so-called Holtzman amendment, which is named after the lawyer and politician of the same name, who in the 1980s pushed for legislation approving the deportation of anyone involved in Nazi persecution.
The court’s decision was upheld in November by the Immigration Appeals Board (BIA), the man was deported on Saturday.
According to the court, in 1945 Berger worked as an armed warden in one of the branch camps of the Neuengamme concentration camp network in northwestern Germany. Most of the prisoners were Russian, Dutch and Polish civilians, but there were also Jews, Danes, Latvians, French and Italians.
Between 1938 and 1945, about 100,000 people passed through the main camp and 85 subsidiary camps, of whom at least 43,000 died. About 14,000 people were murdered in the main camp, and another nearly 13,000 died in the branch camps. Approximately 16,000 people did not survive the horrific death marches at the end of the war.
According to historians, harsh conditions prevailed in the camp where Berger worked. Prisoners were often forced to work until exhaustion, which often led to death.
The Nazis left the branch camp at the end of March 1945, when British and Canadian Allied forces approached. The court was able to find out that Berger subsequently assisted in the evacuation of the prisoners to the main camp. During the two-week march, 70 prisoners died due to inhumane conditions.
Hundreds more prisoners died during the bombing in the Gulf of Lübeck. The British pilots inadvertently mistaken the two ships on which the prisoners were staying with the enemy’s vessels.
Historians have succeeded in tracing Berger’s role in the camp and in the inhumane transfer of prisoners thanks to old documents found on one of the sunken ships.
According to the court, the former warden confessed to guarding the prisoners from escaping from the camp. According to available documents, he also had to admit that he had not requested a transfer from an armed guard unit. And to the fact that he still receives a German pension, among other things for “war service”.
Berger emigrated with his wife and daughter to Canada after the war, from where he came to the USA in 1959. He entered the United States in accordance with the law. A federal law banning entry into the Nazi persecution expired in 1957. He stated in his visa application that he was a member of the German navy. However, he did not add that he was transferred from the navy to the concentration camp at the end of the war. The Holtzman amendment did not come into force until 1978, when the man was already in the United States.
Berger commented on the whole case in February last year, when the first verdict was handed down. “I was 19 years old and ordered to go there,” the court commented on The Washington Post (WP). According to him, a large part of the case was based on lies. He denied carrying a weapon and said he had only spent a short time in the camp.
“It simply came to our notice then. I can’t believe it, “added the widower, who has two grandchildren in the United States. “I do not understand how this can happen in such a country. You’re kicking me out of my home, “Berger told the authorities.
According to Acting Justice Secretary Monty Wilkinson, Berger’s deportation demonstrates “the commitment of the Department of Justice and other agencies to ensure that the United States does not become a safe haven for individuals involved in Nazi crimes against humanity and human rights abuses.”
On Saturday, Berger became the 70th person the Americans managed to expel in cooperation with the Nazis.
“This case is an example of the persistent commitment of the Office of Immigration and Customs (ICE) and the Department of Justice to seek justice and tirelessly hunt down those involved in one of the greatest atrocities in history, no matter how long it takes,” Tae said. Johnson, head of ICE.
It is not yet clear how the German authorities will behave. Germany closed the case against Berger last year due to lack of evidence. However, according to the German media, he is being questioned by the German police and it is possible that he will be charged again.
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