A 95-year-old man who served as a Nazi concentration camp guard during World War Two has lost an appeal to prevent his deportation, the Justice Department said Thursday.
The deportation of Friedrich Karl Berger, a German citizen living in Tennessee, was first ordered by an immigration judge on Feb. 28 following a two-day trial in Memphis. The judge said Berger was removable under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The government says Berger was an armed guard at a concentration camp near Meppen, Germany, in 1945.
The Board of Immigration Appeals this week dismissed Berger’s efforts to appeal the judge’s ruling.
“Berger’s willing service as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp cannot be erased and will not be ignored,” said Brian C. Rabbitt, acting assistant attorney general.
Officials said that the prisoners of the concentration camp where Berger worked included Jewish, Polish, Russian, Danish, Dutch, Latvian, French, and Italian people, and some political opponents of the Nazis.
“On the eve of tomorrow’s 75th anniversary of the commencement of the Nuremberg trials of the surviving leaders of the defeated Nazi regime, this case shows that the passage of time will not deter the Department from fulfilling the moral imperative of seeking justice for the victims of their heinous crimes,” Rabbitt added.
The immigration judge in February found that the prisoners Berger guarded were held in atrocious conditions and were subject to 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 has argued that he was ordered to work at the camp, telling the Washington Post in March that he feels he is being forced out of his home.
“After 75 years, this is ridiculous. I cannot believe it,” Berger said. “I cannot understand how this can happen in a country like this.”
The immigration judge said he never requested a transfer from the concentration camp guard service and that he still gets a pension from Germany.
Separately, Eli Rosenbaum, a top official at the Justice Department’s Human Rights and Special Prosecution unit, argued that Berger “made his choice to enlist in 1943 in the German military.”
He has been living in the United States since 1959.
The Justice Department has since 1979 attempted to pinpoint collaborators in Nazi war crimes in the hopes of deporting them back to their home countries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.