‘America’s last Nazi guard’ dies in Germany aged 95

Jakiw Palij was extradited from the US last year after a 14-year legal battle


A former Nazi camp guard who was living in the United States for decades before being deported to Germany has died aged 95.

Jakiw Palij, who lived in New York City from 1949 until August 2018, had mostly been living in a retirement home in northwest Germany.

He had been the subject of a 14-year deportation battle.

Palij was born in pre-war Poland in a part of the country that is now in modern day Ukraine and originally entered the United States after the Second World War by lying on his United States immigration papers about his previous work.

He had said he had worked on his father’s farm in Poland and at a German factory, but he was in fact working for the Nazis.

He is believed to have served as an armed guard at the Trawniki labour camp in 1943.

Thousands of Jewish men, women and children died in the camp that year — including more than 6,000 on one day.

But Palij denied participating in any killings, saying he merely guarded bridges and rivers.

He claimed the SS forced him to work for them, threatening to kill him and his family.

Despite being an employee of the Nazi government, his extradition was initially refused by Germany because he was not born within its historic borders.

His continued presence in the United States despite his citizenship being revoked in 2003 led to frequent Jewish protests outside his home in Queens, New York. 

But after both Poland and Ukraine refused to take Palij, stating he was not their responsibility, Germany changed its mind.

“We accept the moral obligation of Germany, in whose name terrible injustice was committed under the Nazis,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last August.

However, though Germany accepted him, there did not appear to be an immediate legal route towards prosecuting him.

A spokeswoman for Warendorf county, where Palij was based, said he died last Wednesday.

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