A 95-year-old man who served as a guard at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II was deported from the United States to Germany, authorities announced Friday. Friedrich Karl Berger, who lived in Tennessee, was deported “for engaging in acts of persecution sponsored by the Nazis” while serving in the concentration camp in 1945, the Justice Department said.
Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson said in a statement that Berger’s removal from the United States demonstrates the department’s “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. “.
“In this year in which we marked the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg convictions, “Wilkinson continued,” this case shows that the passage of even many decades will not deter the Department from seeking justice on behalf of the victims of Nazi crimes. ”
Berger is the 70th person identified as a Nazi persecutor to be expelled from the United States, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
A 2020 trial found that Berger served the Nazi regime in a Neuengamme subcamp near Meppen, Germany, during the Holocaust. The judge who presided over the 2020 case said the Meppen prisoners, many of whom were Jews, Russians, Dutch and Poles, were held in the camp in the winter of 1945. Conditions, the judge ruled, were “appalling” as inmates were forced to do outdoor work “to the point of exhaustion and death,” the Justice Department said.
Prisoners at the Meppen-based camp were forced to build a so-called “friesenwall” to protect Germany’s north coast, according to the Hamburg Foundation for Monuments and Learning Centers. On the day the camp was evacuated, there were 1,773 incarcerated in the camp, the foundation says.
Berger worked in the camp until the Nazis evacuated him in March 1945, at which point the prisoners were forced to go to the main Neuengamme camp. The two-week transfer was carried out in “inhumane conditions,” according to the DOJ, and 70 people who were incarcerated died in the process.
Berger admitted during the trial that he protected the prisoners and prevented them from escaping, US officials said. He also admitted that he never asked to be transferred from his role as a concentration camp guard.
To this day, the Justice Department said, Berger receives a pension from Germany for his previous employment in the country, including his “wartime service.”
He was removed from office under the Holtzman Amendment of 1978 because of his “voluntary service as an armed prison guard in a concentration camp where the persecution took place,” the Justice Department said.
Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tae Johnson said the department “will never stop pursuing those who persecute others.”
“This case exemplifies the steadfast dedication of both ICE and the Department of Justice to pursuing justice and tirelessly seeking out those who participated in one of the greatest atrocities in history,” Johnson said, “no matter how long it takes.”