Department of Justice Seal Department of Justice
(202) 616-2777
TDD (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Christopher A. Wray, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, announced that a federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., today revoked the citizenship of a Queens resident on the basis of his service as an armed guard at an SS slave-labor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and his concealment of that service when he immigrated to the United States. The denaturalization decision issued today by U.S. District Judge Allyne Ross cited admissions and other evidence proving that Jakiw Palij, 79, served during 1943 as an armed guard at the notorious Trawniki Labor Camp, which the court found was created “[t]o further the exploitation of Jewish labor.”“By guarding the prisoners held under inhumane conditions at Trawniki, Jakiw Palij prevented their escape and directly contributed to their eventual slaughter at the hands of the Nazis,” said Roslynn R. Mauskopf, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

“The ruling today affirms that no individual who assisted in the perpetration of Nazi genocide deserves the precious mantle of United States citizenship,” said Eli M. Rosenbaum, director of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which investigated Palij and, along with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, prosecuted the case against him.

In her 25-page decision, Judge Ross found that Palij trained for Nazi service at the SS-run Trawniki Training Camp, in the Lublin District of Poland. She noted that the men who trained at the camp were prepared for service “as guards for duty at other concentration camps, ghettos, and labor camps,” in furtherance of “Operation Reinhard,” the Nazi campaign to annihilate Jews in Poland, a conspiracy that “resulted in the murder of 1.7 million Jews.” Adjacent to the training facility was the Trawniki Labor Camp, which was guarded by the men in training and others.

Judge Ross noted that on November 3 and 4, 1943, “in a brutal spate of killing,” other units “slaughtered Trawniki’s entire inmate population” of some 6,000 Jewish civilians, as part of an SS operation code-named “Operation Harvest Festival.” The court’s decision quoted historical scholarship establishing that the operation, “with the victim total of 42,000, has the ignoble distinction of having been ‘the single largest German killing operation against Jews in the entire war.’”Judge Ross also found that, by March 1944, Palij was serving in the Deployment Company, a unit that perpetrated numerous atrocities against Polish civilians and others. When Palij applied for an immigration visa to the United States in 1949, the judge held, he falsely claimed that he worked on his father’s farm and then in Germany during the period when he was actually in Nazi service.

The proceedings to denaturalize Palij are 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. Seventy-two individuals who assisted in Nazi persecution have been stripped of U.S. citizenship, and 57 such persons have been removed from the United States since OSI began operations in 1979. In addition, more than 160 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.