- Former Nazi guard Jakiw Palij was deported form the US to Germany on Monday.
- But a German official told CNN on Wednesday that Palij will likely not face prosecution for working at the Trawniki concentration camp.
- Jens Rommel says prosecutors would have to prove that Palij committed murder or helped others murder in order to press charges, and there’s no evidence he did either.
The former Nazi death camp guard who was deported from his home in New York City to Germany on Monday will likely not be prosecuted, a German official said Wednesday.
Jens Rommel, of the Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, told CNN that there’s no evidence 95-year-old Polish-born Jakiw Palij killed anyone during his time working as a guard at the Trawniki concentration camp, in what is today the Ukraine.
“Mere membership in the SS or even training in the Trawniki camp is no longer prosecutable under our current law,” Rommel told CNN. “That means we would have to prove, here in Germany, that an individual has either committed a murder on his own or has supported the murders of others through his actions.”
While Palij has admitted to being a guard at the camp, and lying to US immigration officials about his wartime work when he immigrated in 1949, he claims he never hurt anyone.
Not much information actually exists about the Trawniki camp since virtually all of the prisoners there were executed, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
It’s estimated that 6,000 Jewish men, women and children were shot to death at the camp on November 3, 1943, in what was one of the largest single Holocaust massacres.
The lack of information about the camp and Palij’s work there is part of the reason why his case languished for so long.
A judge actually ordered Palij deported in 2004, after the man admitted to lying to US immigration officials about his wartime work. At that point, US officials petitioned Germany, Poland, and the Ukraine to take him – but all three refused.
After increased pressure from President Donald Trump, German officials eventually conceded and agreed to take Palij.
“His transfer from the USA doesn’t change anything about the state of evidence,” Rommel told The Guardian. “In theory, prosecutors in Würzburg could resume their proceedings in case something changed, but for that, proof would be necessary in particular, which would bring the person into direct connection with the crimes, and that is what has been missing so far.”
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell said he has regularly asked German officials to reconsider taking Palij.
He said newer officials, including Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Interior Minister Horse Sheehofer, understood it was a “moral obligation” to accept Palij, as he “served in the name of the former German government.”
So what happens to Palij now? He’ll likely spend his few remaining days in government care. After arriving in Germany on Tuesday, he was transferred to a senior home in the town of Ahlen.
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