The last remaining adjudicated Nazi war criminal lives in Jackson Heights and a group of students and staff from a Long Island Jewish high school rallied in front of the man’s house on Nov. 9 to make it clear they wanted him out of the country.
About 160 students and staff from Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence stood across the street from 33-11 89th Pl., where Jakiw Palij has lived in the home for years. According to Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, members of the school have been showing up to the house for 13 years to protest.
The high school students chanted “No Palij in the USA” and “Your time is up” while holding signs and carrying a large American flag that was draped on top of a police barricade.
The group decided to rally today because it is the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. Nazi’s began their “campaign of terror” in Germany on this day, beating Jews, vandalizing synagogues and shattering glass in Jewish institutions and stores.
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.
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 His citizenship was revoked in 2003 when officials discovered who he was but the German, Ukraine and Polish governments refuse to accept him.
“Why should a veteran or Holocaust survivor walk the same streets as this Nazi?” Friedman asked. “There is a murderer living in your city. He would kill everyone who didn’t look like him.”
In August, Congressman Joe Crowley wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling on the State Department to deport him. Students from Rambam Mesivta read letters from a variety of elected officials who have supported deporting Palij. Crowley’s letter was signed by every member of New York’s congress.
“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.
Assemblyman David Weprin attended the rally and said it was especially pertinent that they gather so close to Veteran’s Day.
“We’re here today to say that it is about time for Jakiw Palij to get out of here,” he said. “Thousands of young American servicemen and women fought and died to expunge the evil of Nazism from the world and it is time that we removed the Nazi from New York.”
According to Hillel Goldman, the associate principle of Rambam Mesivta, Palij has not been deported because of “red tape.”
“It’s really up to the other countries like Poland, Ukraine and Germany [to take him in],” he said. “This Nazi has lived off the fat of the American land. Let today be the final wave that breaks the dam of indifference.”
As two school buses stopped in front of Palij’s house, students and staff piled in to be transported to the German consulate in Manhattan where they would make the case as to why Germany should take him back.
Though the Holocaust occurred more than 70 years ago, Goldman believes “justice has no expiration date.”