A 95-year-old man who was a Nazi concentration camp guard during WWII has been deported from the U.S. to Germany, authorities announced on Friday. Friedrich Karl Berger, who lived in Tennessee, was deported "for participating in Nazi-sponsored acts of persecution" while serving at the concentration camp in 1945, the Justice Department said.
Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson said in a statement that Berger's removal from the U.S. 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 mark the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg convictions," Wilkinson continued, "this case shows that the passage even of many decades will not deter the Department from pursuing justice on behalf of the victims of Nazi crimes."
Berger is the 70th person identified as a Nazi persecutor to be removed from the U.S., according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
A 2020 trial found that Berger served the Nazi regime at a Neuengamme sub-camp near Meppen, Germany, during the Holocaust. The judge who presided over the 2020 case said that Meppen prisoners, many of which were Jewish, Russian, Dutch and Polish, were held at the camp in the winter of 1945. The conditions, the judge ruled, were "atrocious," as the prisoners were forced to conducted labor outdoors "to the point of exhaustion and death," the DOJ said.
Prisoners at the Meppen-based camp were forced to build a so-called "friesenwall" to protect the northern coast of Germany, according to the Foundation of Hamburg Memorials and Learning Centres. On the day that the camp was evacuated, there were 1,773 imprisoned at the camp, the foundation says.
Berger worked at the camp until the Nazis evacuated it in March 1945, at which time the prisoners were forced to go to the main Neuengamme camp. The two-week transfer was made in "inhumane conditions," according to the DOJ, and 70 people who were imprisoned died in the process.
Berger admitted during the trial that he guarded the prisoners and prevented them from escaping, U.S. officials said. He also admitted that he never requested to be transferred from his role as a concentration camp guard.
To this day, the DOJ said, Berger receives a pension from Germany for his past employment in the country, including his "wartime service."
He was removed under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment because of his "willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place," the DOJ said.
Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Tae Johnson said the department "will never cease to pursue those who persecute others."
"This case exemplifies the steadfast dedication of both ICE and the Department of Justice to pursue justice and to hunt relentlessly for those who participated in one of history's greatest atrocities," Johnson said, "no matter how long it takes."
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