NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A 95-year-old Nazi living in Queens has been deported.
This comes 14 years after the man was ordered to leave the country, but still managed to stay, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported.
Early Tuesday morning, ICE agents removed Jakiw Palij from his home in Jackson Heights in a wheelchair and then put on a stretcher. He is now in Germany, after living for decades in the United States.
It wasn’t the first time attention had been brought to his door.
In the doorway of his home Palij stood a free man. CBS2 has footage of Palij from 2013, years after the former Nazi labor camp guard was issued an order of deportation. Yet he managed to stay here until Tuesday morning, ending a 14-year fight to get him out of the United States.
Community members told CBS2’s DeAngelis they support the 95-year-old’s removal.
“I don’t care how old he is,” neighbor Adam DiFilippo said. “His old age does not excuse his actions. Whatever he gets now, he gets what he deserves.”
For years, his Queens home became a site of protests. Assemblyman Dov Hikind was behind the fight to deport Palij and called what happened Tuesday long-overdue justice.
“This is a man who participated in genocide. This was a man that was ordered deported 15 years ago. Why was he free living here in Jackson Heights, breathing the air of America, enjoying what he deprived millions of others from?” Hikind said.
Justice Department officials said Palij was a guard at a death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1949 and became a citizen in 1957 by lying to immigration officials about his role in Nazi atrocities when he entered the country after World War II. That all changed in 2001, when he admitted his role serving as a Nazi guard.
But still, any attempts to deport him failed, until Tuesday.
CBS2 got reaction from the White House by phone.
“President Trump sees Palij removal as a strong message to the entire world that the United States stands firmly against anti-Semitism, war crimes and human rights violations,” said Theo Wold, the president’s special assistant for domestic policy.
Efraim Zurroff, known as the “Nazi hunter,” said he is pleased to see this chapter finally close.
“After a very long struggle … 14 years … it took 14 years,” Zurroff said. “He will be sent to Germany and we hope a way can be found to prosecute him for his crimes.”
It’s not clear what will happen now that Palij is in Germany.
Though the last Nazi suspect ordered deported, Palij is not the last in the U.S.
Since 2017, Poland has been seeking the extradition of Ukrainian-born Michael Karkoc, an ex-commander in an SS-led Nazi unit that burned Polish villages and killed civilians during the war. The 99-year-old who currently lives in Minneapolis was the subject of a series of 2013 reports by the AP that led Polish prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant for him.
In addition to Karkoc, there are almost certainly others in the U.S. who have either not yet been identified or investigated by authorities.
The American public did not become fully aware until the 1970s that thousands of Nazi persecutors had gone to the U.S. after World War II. Some estimates say 10,000 may have made the U.S. their home after the war.
Since then, the Justice Department has initiated legal proceedings against 137 suspected Nazis, with about half, 67, being removed by deportation, extradition or voluntary departure. Of the rest, 28 died while their cases were pending and nine were ordered deported but died in the U.S. because no other country was willing to take them.
A look at other notable Nazi suspects removed from the U.S.:
HERMINE BRAUNSTEINER RYAN
Ryan, a New York City housewife who hid her past as a ruthless concentration camp guard known as “The Stomping Mare,” was the first suspected Nazi war criminal that the U.S. extradited for a war crimes prosecution.
The U.S. sent Ryan to West Germany in 1973, where she was convicted of multiple acts of murder while a guard at the Majdanek concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
She was also a guard at the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany.
Ryan’s life sentence was shortened in 1996 because she was in failing health. She died three years later at age 79.
A court found Ryan was involved in the process of deciding whether inmates were sent to the gas chambers or were spared so they could perform forced labor.
Demjanjuk, a Cleveland, Ohio autoworker born Ivan Mykolaiovych Demianiuk in Ukraine, was deported to Germany in 2009. He was convicted there in 2011 on charges he aided the deaths of more than 28,000 Jews as a guard at the Sobibor extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Demjanjuk, pronounced dehm-YAHN’-yook, steadfastly denied involvement in the Holocaust, maintaining he was a victim of mistaken identity.
He died in a Bavarian nursing home in 2012 at age 91 while appealing. His conviction was unprecedented in German law because it was solely on the basis of serving as a camp guard, with no evidence he was involved in a specific killing.
Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel in 1986 and sentenced to death on charges he was “Ivan the Terrible,” a guard who operated gas chambers at a camp where about 850,000 Jews were killed.
Israel’s Supreme Court overturned that verdict, citing evidence “Ivan” was another man.
FEODOR (FYODOR) FEDORENKO
Fedorenko, the first suspected Nazi war criminal deported from the U.S. to the Soviet Union, was executed by firing squad in 1987 at age 79.
A Soviet court found the former Treblinka death camp guard guilty of treason, voluntarily joining the Nazis and participating in mass killings at the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Fedorenko was deported in December 1984 after a seven-year battle to remain in the U.S., where he had worked in a Connecticut factory before retiring to Miami Beach.
The U.S. stripped his citizenship after finding he attained it by omitting references to his Nazi service.
Trial witnesses said they saw Fedorenko beating and shooting Jews.
Fedorenko did not deny he had worked at Treblinka, but said he did not participate in any killings, telling the court, “Jews were among my best friends.”
Linnas, a concentration camp chief who settled on Long Island and worked as a land surveyor, was one of the highest-ranking Nazi collaborators expelled from the U.S.
Linnas was stripped of his citizenship in 1982 and sent to the Soviet Union in 1987, where he had been convicted in absentia three decades earlier on charges he had a hand in the deaths of 12,000 people at the Tartu concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Estonia.
Linnas died of heart failure at age 67 before he could face a firing squad.
Investigators said Linnas ordered guards to fire on prisoners as they kneeled along the edge of a ditch, causing them to fall directly into their graves.
Immigrating to the U.S. in 1951, Linnas claimed to be a person displaced by the war and failed to disclose his Nazi service. He gained citizenship in 1959.
Rudolph, one of the Germany’s most prominent rocket scientists, was brought to the U.S. after World War II because of his technical skill.
NASA awarded him a Distinguished Service Medal for achievements that included his central role in the Apollo project that put a man on the moon.
Decades later he was accused of “working thousands of slave laborers to death” in the Nazi factory that built the V-2 rocket.
Rudolph signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. in 1983.He traveled on his U.S. passport to West Germany in 1984. Then he went to the U.S. General Consulate in Hamburg and renounced his citizenship. The West German government protested, but Rudolph remained there.
He was eventually granted German citizenship and collected U.S. Social Security benefits until his death in 1996 at age 89.
VALERIAN (VIOREL) TRIFA
Trifa, the former U.S. archbishop of the Romanian Orthodox church, relinquished his citizenship in 1980 and left for Portugal in 1984 after admitting he lied to immigration authorities to conceal pro-Nazi activities during World War II.
The U.S. government alleged Trifa had been an ardent Nazi supporter who wrote inflammatory newspaper articles and made anti-Jewish speeches as a member of the Iron Guard, a Romanian fascist group.
One speech, in January 1941, touched off four days of rioting in Bucharest that resulted in hundreds of deaths. Trifa denied any role in the riots.
Trifa attained a U.S. visa through the post-war displaced persons program.
He was interned in the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps but investigators said he never told refugee officials about special treatment he received.
Trifa died in 1987 at age 72.
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