A 95-year-old former German concentration camp guard, who had been living in Tennessee since 1959, was returned to his own country on Saturday, the Justice Department said.
Friedrich Karl Berger was deported after U.S. authorities determined he worked as an armed guard at a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp system.
It is not immediately clear if Mr. Berger will face charges in Germany.
The Neuengamme network held Jewish, Russian, Dutch, and Polish civilians along with political opponents from France, Italy, and other countries. All told, the Neuengamme system’s verified death toll is 42,900.
In 1945, prisoners were forced to live in “atrocious” conditions and work “to the point of exhaustion and death,” according to Mr. Berger’s removal order.
“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. “
Justice Department investigators were able to connect Mr. Berger’s service at the camp with details from an index card found in a sunken ship off the coast of Germany. The ship was mistakenly bombed by British warplanes in May 1945, during the war’s last week.
After the war, Mr. Berger moved Germany to Canada with his wife and daughter and ultimately made his way to the United States. Mr. Berger came to the United States legally, according to court documents.
He is now a widower with two grandchildren.
In November, the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld a Tennessee immigration judge’s decision. The judge concluded that Mr. Berger was removable because of his “willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place.”
Mr. Berger blasted the attempts to remove him during his immigration trial. He insisted he was ordered to work at the camp and did not carry a weapon.
“After 75 years, this is ridiculous. I cannot believe it,” he told the court. “I cannot understand how this can happen in a country like this. You’re forcing me out of my home.”
But Mr. Berger did admit during the trial that he guarded prisoners, did not seek a transfer from the camp and was still earning a pension from Germany based on his wartime service.
Since 1979, the Justice Department has removed more than 70 people under a federal law that bars anyone who participated in Nazi persecutions from entering or living in the United States.
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