Tennessee Man Who Worked as a Guard at Nazi Concentration Camp Deported
By R.J. Johnson - @rickerthewriter
March 6, 2020
A Tennessee man who once served as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp has been deported back to Germany, a U.S. immigration judge ordered on Thursday.
Following a two-day trial, U.S. Immigration Judge Rebecca L. Holt issued her ruling, finding that Friedrich Karl Berger's "willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place constituted assistance in Nazi-sponsored persecution," a statement from the Justice Department said.
Berger served at Neuengamme sub-camp near Meppen, Germany, in 1945 where prisoners including, Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Latvians, French, Italians, and political opponents of the Nazis were held during the war. The largest groups of prisoners were Russian, Dutch and Polish civilians. Prisoners at Neuengamme were kept in "atrocious conditions and were exploited for outdoor force labor," the statement from the Justice Department said. Some of the prisoners at the camp were worked "to the point of exhaustion and death," the court found.
Berger, now 94, and a German citizen, was found by Holt to be eligible for removal from the United States under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act.
“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.”
During the course of the trial, Berger admitted that he'd "guarded prisoners to prevent them from escaping during their dawn-to-dusk workday, and on their way to the worksites and also on their way back to the subcamp in the evening."
The camp was eventually abandoned by the Nazis in March 1945 as British and Canadian forces advanced on the area. The court also found that Berger guarded prisoners while they were forcibly evacuated to the Neuengamme main camp, in which some 70 people died. Berger never requested a transfer away from his concentration camp service, and even continues to receive a German pension that includes 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, which oversees the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center. “We will continue to pursue these types of cases so that justice may be served.”
In an interview with the Washington Post, Berger said that he'd been ordered to work at the camp and did not carry a weapon while he was there.
"After 75 years, this is ridiculous," he told the outlet. "I cannot understand how this can happen in a country like this. You're forcing me out of my home."
Photo: Getty Images