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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated proceedings to deport a Queens, New York, man based on his participation in the persecution of Jewish civilians during World War II while serving as an armed guard at a Nazi forced labor camp in German-occupied Poland. This deportation request follows a recent decision by a federal district court judge in Brooklyn revoking the U.S. citizenship of Jakiw Palij, 80, based on his service at the Trawniki Labor Camp, which that court found was created “[t]o further the exploitation of Jewish labor.”

Christopher A. Wray, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, stated, “By guarding prisoners of Nazi forced labor camps and preventing their escape, Palij and his fellow guards actively aided the Nazis’ scheme to annihilate the Jews of Europe.”

The charging document, prepared by the Criminal Division’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), alleges that in February 1943, Palij, a native of Ukraine, began training for Nazi service at the SS-run Trawniki Training Camp in the Lublin District of Poland. As the federal court noted in denaturalizing Palij, the men who trained at Trawniki were trained 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, the court observed, “resulted in the murder of 1.7 million Jews.”

The charging document states that the Trawniki Labor Camp held Jewish prisoners and was located adjacent to the SS training facility. The document specifies that during his period of training, Palij guarded the camp while armed with a rifle and prevented the prisoners from escaping. On November 3 and 4, 1943, the approximately 6,000 surviving prisoners of the camp, along with tens of thousands of other prisoners in Poland, were murdered as part of an operation to which the SS assigned the macabre code-name “Operation Harvest Festival.”

The charging document also states that, when Palij applied for an immigration visa to the United States in 1949, he falsely claimed that he worked on his father’s farm and then worked in Germany during the period when he was actually in Nazi service in Poland.

OSI Director Eli M. Rosenbaum stated, “Palij’s continued presence in the United States is an affront to the memory of millions of murdered Holocaust victims and the more than 200,000 American soldiers who died in the Allied campaign to bring an end to the Nazi regime’s reign of terror.”

The proceedings to remove 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-three individuals who assisted in Nazi persecution have been stripped of U.S. citizenship, and fifty-nine such persons have been removed from the United States since OSI began operations in 1979. 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.

Members of the public are reminded that the charging document contains only allegations. It will be the government's burden to prove the allegations by clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence.