By Dustin Brown
The federal government is moving to revoke the citizenship of a Jackson Heights man who allegedly lied to get into the United States after serving as a Nazi guard during a campaign that killed 1.7 million Jews in Poland, according to court papers.
Jakiw Palij, 78, of 33-18 89th St., became a naturalized American citizen in 1957 after entering the country eight years earlier as a displaced person.
But the U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged him with illegally obtaining his citizenship and is now asking a federal court to revoke it, according to a complaint filed last Thursday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
The charges against Palij are part of an ongoing effort by the Justice Department to pursue legal action against American residents who participated in Nazi persecution, 67 of whom have been stripped of their citizenship since 1979.
Palij was not available for comment, and a secretary for his attorney, Ivars Berzins, said he would not discuss the case.
In 1949, Palij allegedly hid his Nazi past to be named a displaced person under the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, claiming he had served as a farmer and factory worker during the length of the war, the complaint said.
He was eventually awarded a visa and entered the United States at the Port of Boston on July 22, 1949, earning his citizenship in April 1957.
Alan Vinegrad, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, has requested that the court revoke his citizenship and issue a judgment “forever restraining and enjoining (him) from claiming any rights, privileges, benefits, or advantages under any document evidencing United States citizenship.”
The complaint does not charge Palij with directly killing anyone but asserts that he “acquiesced in activities or conduct contrary to civilization and human decency,” which made him ineligible to receive a visa.
Born Aug. 16, 1923 in the Polish village of Piadyki—now part of the Ukraine—Palij was recruited by Nazi Germany’s elite SS guard in 1943, two years after the area came under Germany occupation, the complaint alleged.
He was assigned in February 1943 to the Trawniki Training Camp, which was used to train men for “Operation Reinhard,” a Nazi campaign to exploit and exterminate Polish Jews that ultimately led to the murder of 1.7 million people, alleged the complaint.
Palij allegedly trained there and served as an armed guard at a nearby forced labor camp for Jews, where he compelled prisoners to work and prevented them from escaping, Vinegrad said in the complaint. On Nov. 3, 1943, approximately 6,000 Jewish prisoners were shot to death at the camp.
By March 31, 1944, he had been assigned to a deployment company that rounded up suspected Polish partisans and sent them to concentration camps, the U.S. Attorney alleged.
He was eventually promoted to the rank of SS Oberwachmann, or Guard Private First Class, as a member of the SS Battalion Streibel’s First Company, which moved about until the war ended in 1945, the complaint alleged.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.