FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
MONDAY, JUNE 14, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
IMMIGRATION JUDGE ORDERS NEW YORK MAN WHO SERVED AS
GUARD AT NAZI LABOR CAMP DEPORTED TO UKRAINE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Assistant Attorney General Christopher A. Wray of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf of the Eastern District of New York announced today that immigration judge Robert Owens has ordered the deportation to Ukraine of Jakiw Palij, 80, of Queens, New York, on the basis of his service during World War II as an armed guard at the Trawniki forced-labor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and his subsequent concealment of that service when he immigrated to the United States. Palij’s United States citizenship was revoked in August 2003 by a federal judge on the basis of his wartime activities and postwar immigration fraud.
“The immigration judge’s decision reaffirms the important principle that neither the passage of time nor the expanse of an ocean will prevent the United States from securing a measure of justice on behalf of the victims of the Nazi regime,” said Assistant Attorney General Wray.
“By concealing his service to the Nazis at a forced-labor camp, Jakiw Palij fraudulently obtained the privilege of U.S. citizenship,” said U.S. Attorney Mauskopf, whose office participated in the earlier prosecution that resulted in Palij’s denaturalization. “We will spare no effort to revoke U.S. citizenship and deport those individuals who participated in the heinous events of the Holocaust.”
“During a single nightmarish day in November 1943, all of the more than 6,000 prisoners of the Nazi camp that Jakiw Palij had guarded were systematically butchered,” said Eli M. Rosenbaum, Director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which investigated and prosecuted the case. “By helping to prevent the escape of these prisoners, Palij played an indispensable role in ensuring that they met their tragic fate at the hands of the Nazis,” said Rosenbaum.
Palij admitted to federal officials in 2001 that he was trained at the adjacent Trawniki Training Camp in the spring of 1943. Documents filed by the government with the court showed that men who trained at Trawniki participated in implementing the Third Reich’s plan to murder Jews in Poland, code-named “Operation Reinhard.” On Nov. 3, 1943, more than 6,000 men, women and children incarcerated at Trawniki were shot to death in one of the largest single massacres of the Holocaust. As Judge Owens wrote in his decision ordering Palij’s deportation, these victims “had spent at least half a year in camps guarded by Trawniki-trained men, including Jakiw Palij.”
Palij immigrated to the United States in 1949 and became a U.S. citizen in 1957. He concealed his Nazi service by telling U.S. immigration officials that he had spent the war years in a town in Germany and in his hometown, which was then a part of Poland and is now in Ukraine.
The deportation case was litigated by OSI Deputy Director Jonathan Drimmer and OSI Trial Attorney Adam Fels. The deportation decision in the Palij case is a result of OSI's ongoing efforts to identify, investigate and take legal action against former participants in Nazi persecution who reside in the United States. Since OSI began operations in 1979, it has won cases against 94 individuals who assisted in Nazi persecution. In addition, more than 170 individuals who sought to enter the United States in recent years have been blocked from doing so as a result of OSI's “Watch List” program, which is enforced in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security.