MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The U.S. government said Thursday that it is deporting a 94-year-old German ex-Nazi who has been in the United States for decades after information was found in a sunken ship, implicating him as a concentration camp guard. An immigration judge ordered Friedrich Karl Berger's deportation on Feb. 28 after a two-day trial in Memphis, authorities said.
The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department traced Berger's Nazi service to an index card that was found in a sunken ship years after it was mistakenly bombed by the British Royal Air Force in May 1945. The card apparently documented Berger's work at the Neuengamme concentration camp system.
"What are the odds, you know, of that card having survived . . . and making it to us decades later?" Justice Department prosecutor Eli Rosenbaum told the newspaper.
It's unclear when he will be removed. Berger, who's been living in Tennessee, has 30 days to appeal the ruling.
The government says Berger was an armed guard at a concentration camp near Meppen, Germany, in 1945. Berger, who was reached by phone by The Washington Post, said he did not carry a weapon and said the court's conclusions about his work at the camp were based on "lies."
The immigration judge found that the prisoners Berger guarded were held in atrocious conditions and were exploited for forced labor. Berger also was accused of guarding prisoners during a forced evacuation to a main camp that took two weeks and left 70 prisoners dead as they traveled in inhumane conditions, according to two government news releases.
Berger acknowledged that he never requested a transfer from the concentration camp guard service and that he still gets a pension from Germany. He has been living in the U.S. since 1959.
CBS affiliate WREG-TV reports that Berger said to this day he still receives a pension from Germany for his work, "including his wartime service."
The U.S. Department of Justice's Human Rights and Special Prosecutions unit launched an investigation into Berger in 2017. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center also investigated.
In August 2018, American authoritieswho had lived quietly in New York City for decades. The man died in Germany about five months later.