Queens congressman calls on Secretary of State to deport ex-Nazi guard living in Jackson Heights

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Nearly two dozen elected officials have signed a letter urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to deport a former Nazi guard living in Jackson Heights.

Jakiw Palij, 94, served as a guard at the Trawniki camp in Nazi-occupied Poland where at least 6,000 Jews were shot to death on Nov. 3, 1943, according to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Queens Congressman Joe Crowley, along with 20 other elected officials, are arguing that Palij should “face justice” for his crimes.

They also added that New Yorkers should not be forced to live near “a painful reminder for Americans who fought against the Nazis or lost loved ones in the Holocaust.”

Palij, who officially became a U.S. citizen in 1957 after emigrating here eight years earlier at the age of 26, omitted his role in the war when applying for citizenship. His citizenship was revoked in 2003 when officials discovered who he was but the German, Ukraine and Polish governments refuse to accept him.

“Those who participated in the atrocities of the Holocaust have no place in our communities,” Crowley said. “The Nazis’ crimes were beyond heinous, and we have the responsibility to pursue justice on behalf of their victims. I’m proud to join Reps. Nadler and Donovan in urging Secretary Tillerson to decisively step forward and intervene personally so the victims of Jakiw Palij’s crimes see justice done.”

Elected officials and Queens residents have for years called for Palij to be deported. The 94-year-old told the New York Post in 2013 that he was forced to become a guard along with other teenagers.

“If you tried to run away, they take your family and shoot all of them,” he told the Post. “I am not SS. I have nothing to do with SS.”

Though federal prosecutors do not accuse him of personally killing people in the camp, they argue that he forced Jews to work in the camp and prevented then from escaping.

Eli M. Rosenbaum, director of a special investigation unit for the Justice Department, called him ”an essential component in the machinery of annihilation” in 2003.

Palij, who worked as a draftsman in the United States, lives in an apartment on 89th Street. Though he was granted Social Security benefits at one point, a spokesperson for Crowley said he no longer receives them.

“Jakiw Palij has yet to face justice, and it’s a dishonor to the Jewish people and millions of Holocaust victims that he continues to live freely in New York City,” Congressman Dan Donovan said. “Those complicit in the Holocaust’s atrocities don’t deserve to enjoy the rights they took from others. I hope that Mr. Palij is swiftly deported.”

The letter was signed by Reps. Jerry Nadler, Nita Lowey, Thomas Suozzi, Peter King, Eliot Engel, Adriana Espaillat, Grace Meng, Nydia Velazquez, Lee Zeldin, Kathleen Rice, Jose Serrano, Hakeem Jeffries, Carolyn Maloney, Louise Slaughter, Brian Higgins, Paul Tonko, Yvette Clarke, Gregory Meeks and Sean Patrick Maloney.



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