Recently, hundreds of high school students rallied outside the Jackson Heights home of an 83-year old former Nazi slave labor camp guard, pounding on his front door, waving signs and chanting demands that he be removed from the community.
“Your hands are drenched in blood! Your hands are drenched in blood!” the crowd roared, blocking the sidewalk in front of Jakiw Palij’s two-story red brick home.
Palij served as a guard at the Trawniki labor camp in Poland in 1943, where 7,000 Jews were killed, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Palij has lived in the United States since 1949 and came to the U.S., claiming he was a farm-worker during the Holocaust, by concealing his Nazi service from U.S. immigration officials, according to recent published reports.
About 700 people, including students from Haftr High School, an orthodox Yeshiva in Cedarhurst, participated in the four-hour demonstration that featured empowered student speakers, speeches by the rally’s organizer - Rabbi Zev Friedman - and a passionate first-person account by a Holocaust survivor.
“We will do whatever we can to get this guy locked up,” Friedman said. “We will continue to come here until he passes away or is deported. We want all of his neighbors to know: Your neighbor is a Nazi.”
Palij, an ethnic Ukrainian, had his U.S. citizenship revoked in 2003. An immigration judge ordered his deportation to the Ukraine in 2004, but that country refused to take Palij in. Efforts to extradite him to Germany and Poland have also failed despite U.S. efforts.
In a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel last year, Congressmember Anthony Weiner wrote, “It is your country’s responsibility to accept him and allow justice to be served.”
For now, Palij remains at home on a quiet, tree-lined block in Queens.
Albert Schwarz, 86, joined in on the chant, coughing and wheezing as he shouted along.
“I have lived here, down the street, for more than 50 years, and I didn’t know he was here,” Schwarz said, sunk low in his wheelchair and bundled in a thick winter coat. “They killed my whole family, the Nazis. Three brothers, my father, my mother.”
Yet, other neighbors were not as harsh.
“It’s just a bunch of kids,” said Alex Vanegas, a 24-year old Jackson Heights resident. “The guys doing this rally, they’re just teaching these kids to hate. You have to forgive people sometimes.”
“They should just leave him alone and let bygones be bygones,” said Emilio Choque, who has lived across the street from Palij for six years. “I’m not saying the Holocaust was right - it was genocide - but they should just leave him alone. He’s an old man.”
Still, Friedman told those at the rally that they should not rest until Palij, who never opened the door during the rally, was brought to justice.
“If we caught Osama Bin Laden, and he was 80-something years old, would we let him go?” Friedman asked. “It’s not just an issue of him. There should be no S.S. in the U.S.”

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