The 95-year-old man who was believed to be the last living Nazi war criminal in the United States is now living in a senior home in Ahlen, Germany, after being deported from his home in Jackson Heights, Queens on Monday evening. However, following his deportation, Jakiw Palij probably won't face prosecution.
CNN spoke to Jens Rommel of Germany's Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, who said, "Mere membership in the SS or even training in the Trawniki camp is no longer prosecutable under our current law. That means we would have to prove, here in Germany, that an individual has either committed a murder on his own or has supported the murders of others through his actions."
According to the Justice Department, Palij told them he "trained at the SS Training Camp in Trawniki, in Nazi-occupied Poland, in the spring of 1943. Documents subsequently filed in court by the Justice Department showed that men who trained at Trawniki participated in implementing the Third Reich’s plan to murder Jews in Poland, code-named 'Operation Reinhard.'" Palij's citizenship was revoked in 2003, but it's taken the past 15 years to convince a country to accept him. A German official said that bringing Palij, who was born in the part of Poland that is now the Ukraine, there was part of their "moral obligation."
Police stands in front of a senior home in Ahlen, Germany, where Jakiw Palij, a former Nazi concentration camp guard, arrived on Tuesday, August 21. (Martin Meissner/AP/Shutterstock)
Palij emigrated to the United States in 1949, claiming he had been a farmer. He bought his home in Queens in 1966, and the sellers were Holocaust survivors, according to their son who spoke to the Post, "They would have been horrified."
He added, "I don’t think [Palij] would have gotten out of that house alive" if his father had known about Palij's past.
Over the decades, Palij denied being in the SS, and protesters would periodically line the sidewalk outside his home. The NY Times reports, "[N]eighbors watched agape as Mr. Palij, a cap pulled over his eyes, was wheeled from his home by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who removed him at last from the country he had entered in 1949."
One Adam DiFilippo, said, "He was nothing more than a man who got out. This man deserves what he gets," while Ana Ponce, who lived behind Palij, told the Times "on warm days she would frequently see him sitting on that small back staircase, silently crying. 'Maybe,' Ms. Ponce said, 'he is remembering something he did.'"