95-year-old Nazi war criminal deported from U.S. back to Germany

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Candace McCowan reports on the deportation from Jackson Heights.

Exclusive video from ABC News captured ICE agents arresting a notorious Nazi war criminal.

He had lied about his identity and was living in Queens for years. Finally on Monday, Jakiw Palij was deported to Germany.

The exclusive ABC News video shows ICE agents removing 95-year-old Palij from his Jackson Heights home in a wheelchair Monday. The bearded, white-haired Palij, wrapped in a sheet, was carried down the brick stairway in front of his home and is later seen sitting up and talking to the agents. He was then put on a stretcher and taken away.

He didn't answer questions.

The deportation of the 95-year-old former concentration camp guard came 25 years after investigators first confronted Palij about his World War II past and he admitted lying to get into the U.S., claiming he spent the war as a farmer and factory worker.

Palij lived quietly in the U.S. for years, as a draftsman and then as a retiree, until nearly three decades ago when investigators found his name on an old Nazi roster and a fellow former guard spilled the secret that he was "living somewhere in America."

Palij told Justice Department investigators who showed up at his door in 1993: "I would never have received my visa if I told the truth. Everyone lied."

A judge stripped Palij's citizenship in 2003 for "participation in acts against Jewish civilians" while an armed guard at the Trawniki camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and was ordered deported a year later.

But because Germany, Poland, Ukraine, and other countries refused to take him, he continued living in limbo in the two-story, red brick home in Queens he shared with his wife, Maria, now 86. His continued presence there outraged the Jewish community, attracting frequent protests over the years that featured such chants as "your neighbor is a Nazi!"

The White House Press Secretary said in a statement, "Palij's removal sends a strong message: The United States will not tolerate those who facilitated Nazi crimes and other human rights violations, and they will not find a safe haven on American soil."

The Trump administration pledged to deport Palij, saying that he shouldn't live out his last days in this country.

Palij has said in the past that he was "never a collaborator."

Palij landed in the western German city of Duesseldorf on Tuesday. The local government in Warendorf county, near Muenster, indicated that Palij would be taken to a care facility in the town of Ahlen.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that "there is no line under historical responsibility," adding in comment to German daily Bild that doing justice to the memory of Nazi atrocities "means standing by our moral obligation to the victims and the subsequent generations."

German prosecutors have previously said it does not appear that there's enough evidence to charge Palij with wartime crimes.

Now that he is in Germany, Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he hoped prosecutors would revisit the case.

"Trawniki was a camp where people were trained to round up and murder the Jews in Poland, so there's certainly a basis for some sort of prosecution," he said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem, adding that the U.S. Department of Justice "deserves a lot of credit" for sticking with the case.

"The efforts invested by the United States in getting Palij deported are really noteworthy and I'm very happy to see that they finally met with success."

Palij's deportation is the first for a Nazi war crimes suspect since Germany agreed in 2009 to take John Demjanjuk, a retired Ohio autoworker who was accused of serving as a Nazi guard. He was convicted in 2011 of being an accessory to more than 28,000 killings and died 10 months later, at age 91, with his appeal pending.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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nazisdeportationWorld War IIgermanyu.s. & world
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