Updated Feb 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

U.S. deports former Nazi concentration camp guard to Germany

Friedrich Karl Berger, in a photo from 1959.
Friedrich Karl Berger in a photo from 1959. Photo: Department of Justice

The U.S. has deported a 95-year-old man to Germany after a federal investigation found that he worked as a guard in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, the Department of Justice announced Saturday.

Why it matters: Federal agencies said Friedrich Karl Berger, a German citizen, participated in Nazi-sponsored persecution in 1945 while serving as an guard in the Neuengamme concentration camp system in Northern Germany.

What they're saying: “We are committed to ensuring the United States will not serve as a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals,” acting ICE Director Tae Johnson said in a news release.

  • “We will never cease to pursue those who persecute others," Johnson added.
  • "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, no matter how long it takes.”

Details: Berger was investigated and prosecuted by the Department of Justice’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, ICE’s Office of Principal Legal Advisor (Memphis, Tennessee), Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center and Homeland Security Investigations’ field office in Knoxville, Tennessee.

  • After a two-day trial in February 2020, a judge found Berger, who had lived in the U.S. since 1959, was removable from the country under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act because his service as a concentration camp guard constituted assistance in Nazi-sponsored persecution.
  • At the time, Berger told the Washington Post, "I cannot understand how this can happen in a country like this. You're forcing me out of my home."
  • A court found that Berger served at a Neuengamme sub-camp near Meppen, Germany, that held Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Latvians, French, Italians and political opponents of the Nazis as prisoners.

The presiding judge issued an opinion finding that Meppen prisoners were held during the winter of 1945 in “atrocious” conditions and were exploited for outdoor forced labor, working “to the point of exhaustion and death.”

  • The court found and Berger admitted that he helped guard prisoners to prevent them from escaping during their dawn-to-dusk workday.
  • The court determined that Berger helped guard the prisoners during their forcible evacuation to the Neuengamme main camp as allied British and Canadian military forces advanced on Meppen at the end of March 1945.
  • The forced evacuation lasted nearly two weeks and claimed the lives of some 70 prisoners.
  • The court also found that Berger never requested a transfer from concentration camp guard service and that he continues to receive a pension from the German government based on his employment in Germany, “including his wartime service.”

The big picture: The Justice Department said Berger was the 70th Nazi persecutor deported from the U.S. to Germany.

Go deeper