BERLIN — Jakiw Palij, a former Nazi concentration camp guard who lived an unassuming life in New York City for decades until his past was revealed and he was deported to Germany last year, has died, German media reported Thursday. He was 95.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Westfaelische Nachrichten newspapers independently quoted German officials saying Palij died Wednesday in a care home in the town of Ahlen.
U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell, who lobbied for Germany to take Palij, said he’d been informed of the death. He credited President Donald Trump with seeing through Palij’s August 2018 deportation after it had been stalled for a quarter-century.
“It would have been upsetting to many Americans if he had died in the U.S in what many viewed as a comfortable escape,” Grenell said.
Palij was the last Nazi facing deportation from the United States when he was taken from his Queens home on a stretcher and put on a plane to Germany.
From the time American investigators accused him of lying about his Nazi past, it took 25 years for his removal from United States despite political pressure and frequent protests outside his home. He was not prosecuted in Germany and spent his last months in the nursing home.
Palij, an ethnic Ukrainian born in a part of Poland that is now Ukraine, entered the U.S. in 1949 under the Displaced Persons Act, a law meant to help refugees from postwar Europe.
He told immigration officials he worked during the war in a woodshop and farm in Nazi-occupied Poland, as well as at another farm in Germany and finally in a German upholstery factory.
Palij said he never served in the military. In reality, the U.S. Justice Department said he played an essential role in the Nazi program to exterminate Jews as an armed guard at the Trawniki training camp, southeast of Lublin in German-occupied Poland.
When investigators knocked on his door in 1993, he told them: “I would never have received my visa if I told the truth. Everyone lied.”