MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A U.S. immigration judge in Memphis has ordered a German citizen living in Tennessee to leave the country because of his service in Nazi Germany in 1945.
Judge Rebecca Holt issued a removal order for Friedrich Karl Berger after a two-day trial.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, Berger served at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp’s sub-camp near Meppen, Germany. Prisoners included “Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Latvians, French, Italians, and political opponents” of the Nazis. The largest group of prisoners were Russian, Dutch and Polish civilians.
Holt said Meppen prisoners were held in “atrocious conditions” and exploited for forced outdoor labor, working “to the point of exhaustion and death,” according to the DOJ. She ordered Berger removed under the 1987 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act because his “willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place."
“Berger was part of the SS machinery of oppression that kept concentration camp prisoners in atrocious conditions of confinement,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. “This ruling shows the Department’s continued commitment to obtaining a measure of justice, however late, for the victims of wartime Nazi persecution.”
According to the DOJ, Berger admitted guarding prisoners to prevent them from escaping during dawn-to-dusk workdays and on their way to and from work sites and later helped guard them during forcible evacuation to the Neuengamme main camp when the Nazi’s abandoned Meppen. It was a nearly two-week trip that claimed the lives of some 70 prisoners.
The DOJ says Berger admitted never asking for a transfer and still receiving a pension from Germany based on his “wartime service."
“This case is but one example of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s commitment to ensuring that the United States will not serve as a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals,” said Assistant Director David C. Shaw of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), National Security Investigations Division, who oversees the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center. “We will continue to pursue these types of cases so that justice may be served.”
The Washington Post reports Berger is now 94 and has lived in the U.S. since 1959. They reportedly reached him by phone and he said he was ordered to work in the camp but was only there briefly and he didn’t carry a weapon.