Photo: Friedrich Karl Berger
Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Justice
Published February 24, 2021
Friedrich Karl Berger, age 95, was deported on Saturday, Feb. 20 for working as a guard at Nazi concentration camp Neuengamme near Meppen, Germany during WWII.
He had lived in the US since 1959 but still receives a pension from Germany for his employment there, including during wartime.
The Washington Post reports that it is unclear of any actions German authorities may take toward him. Post also quotes him saying he “can’t believe this after 75 years…you’re forcing me out of my home.” He was allegedly forced to work there and was only there a short time, never carrying a weapon.
In Nov. 2020, a prior decision was upheld that he was removable under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act because of his “willing service” at a camp where persecution occurred. Prisoners were forced into labor in unfit conditions to work until exhaustion or death.
He was also found to have guarded the prisoners–70 of whom died enroute—during the trip abandoning Meppen as allied forces advanced. The British forces captured, tried, and convicted many defendants of war crimes in 1947.
Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson says Berger’s removal demonstrates the law and the enforcement’s commitment.
“We are committed to ensuring the United States will not serve as a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals,” said Tae Johnson, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Berger’s home was in Oak Ridge, where one of his former neighbors was a Holocaust survivor, Mira Kimmelman, who wrote two books on her experience before she died. She was born in 1923 in Poland and survived Warsaw and Tomazow-Mazowiecki Ghettos; Blizyn-Majdanek, Auschwitz, Nordhausen, and Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camps.
The investigation was conducted by the Human Rights and Special Protections Section (HRSP) and Nashville ICE office.
The trial and appeal of removal case were also handled by HRSP, ICE New Orleans, and Office of the Principal Legal Advisor in Memphis. Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center and Homeland Security Investigations’ field office in Knoxville were also involved.
General Wilkinson added recognition for assistance of the FBI, Germans, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The statement from the Department of Justice says that Berger was the 70th person to be removed from the US for assisting Nazis.
When Knox News WVLT previously attempted to interview him, he refused to come to the door but later gave a phone interview where he claimed that the government’s accusations against him were “all lies.”
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum states that Neuengamme was established in Dec. 1938 as a subcamp of Sachsenhausen with the intention of renovating the brickwork with concentration camp laborers.
In June 1940, it became an independent camp, and by May 1945 had incarcerated approximately 104,000 people. Aside from forced labor and beatings, they were subject to inadequate food, shelter, and medicine, so disease spread rapidly. Medical experiments also took place in the camp.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was created in 2003 and is headquartered in Washington, DC. Its guiding mission is stated as “keeping America safe,” executed by enforcing over 400 federal statutes, enforcing immigration protocol, and combating transnational crime.
The Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) was established in 2009 to further this mission, pursuing not only present day offenders but also those from historical issues, such as the Holocaust in Berger’s case, as well as other war crimes, torture, genocide, extrajudicial killing, female genital mutilation, and use of child soldiers.
The agency works alongside select agents, lawyers, intelligence specialists, researches, historians, and analysts.