November 22, 2020
Prisoners in forced labor at Neuengamme concentration camp.
A man who served as a Nazi concentration-camp guard has lost his appeal to halt his deportation, announced the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday.
Friedrich Karl Berger, a German citizen, was ordered removed from the United States earlier this year because of his time in 1945 as an armed guard of concentration-camp prisoners in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp system in northern Germany.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt of the Justice Department's Criminal Division noted in a statement that the appeal's denial by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) came on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the commencement of the Nuremberg trials, where former Nazis were convicted and some of them executed as punishment.
Rabbitt said that Berger's "case shows that the passage of time will not deter the department from fulfilling the moral imperative of seeking justice for the victims of their heinous crimes."
"Berger was an active participant in one of the darkest chapters in human history. He attempted to shed his nefarious past to come to America and start anew, but thanks to the dedication of those at the Department of Justice and Homeland Security Investigations, the truth was revealed," said deputy assistant director Louis A. Rodi III of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations National Security Investigations Division, which oversees the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, in a statement. "War criminals and violators of human rights will not be allowed to evade justice and find safe haven here."
The BIA upheld the Feb. 28 decision by a Memphis, Tenn., immigration judge that Berger was removable under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act because his "willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place" constituted assistance in Nazi-sponsored persecution.
The court found that Berger served 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 largest groups of prisoners were Russian, Dutch and Polish civilians.
After a two-day trial in February, the presiding judge issued an opinion finding that Meppen prisoners were held during the winter of 1945 in "atrocious" conditions and were exploited for outdoor forced labor, working "to the point of exhaustion and death."
The court further found — and Berger admitted — that he guarded prisoners to prevent them from escaping during their dawn-to-dusk workday, and on their way to the worksites and also on their way back to the SS-run subcamp in the evening.
At the end of March 1945, as allied British and Canadian forces advanced, the Nazis abandoned Meppen.
The court found that Berger helped guard the prisoners during their forcible evacuation to the Neuengamme main camp — a nearly two-week trip under inhumane conditions, which claimed the lives of some 70 prisoners. The decision also cited Berger's admission that he never requested a transfer from concentration-camp guard service, and that he continues to receive a pension from Germany based on his employment in Germany, "including his wartime service."
Since the 1979 inception of the Justice Department's program to detect and remove Nazi persecutors, it has won cases against 109 individuals.