The camp hosted Russian, Dutch and Polish civilians, as well as Jewish prisoners and political opponents from France, Italy and other countries. During the winter of 1945, according to the Shepherds’ order of dismissal, the prisoners were forced to live in atrocious conditions and to work to the point of exhaustion and death.
It was not immediately clear whether German authorities would take action against Berger. Germany dropped its case against Berger last year due to lack of evidence, but he will be questioned by German police, and new charges could be possible, according to German media.
In 1945, as British and Canadian forces approached the subcamp, Berger helped keep prisoners forced to evacuate to the main camp, Justice Department officials said. During the brutal two-week hike, 70 prisoners died.
Hundreds more were killed when they were placed on two ships at anchor in the Bay of Lübeck in the Baltic Sea. The ships were mistakenly bombarded by British fighter jets in May 1945 during the last week of the war.
Historians at the Department of Justice were able to document the Shepherds’ service at the camp in part with information from a sheet found in one of the ships sunk several years after the bombardment. The map summarized the work of the Shepherds in the camp system.
Holocaust survivor Jona Laks was taken to Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of 14. She returned in 2020, decades after the liberation of the Nazi extermination camp. (Reuters)
Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson said the Shepherds’ withdrawal demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring that the United States is not a safe haven for those who participated in Nazi crimes against the humanity and other human rights violations.
Since 1979, the Justice Department has won similar cases against 70 people, but the pace of Nazi-era cases has slowed down over time, and the Department has no other such cases pending. which means Berger could become the last former Nazi guard. expelled from the country.
After the war, Berger emigrated from Germany to Canada with his wife and daughter, and arrived in the United States in 1959.
Berger, now a widower with two grandchildren, said he was ordered to work in the camp, was only there for a short time and did not carry a weapon.
After 75 years, it’s ridiculous. I can’t believe it, he said last year as he fought his deportation from the United States. I can’t understand how this can happen in a country like this. You are forcing me out of my house.
Justice Ministry investigators concluded that Berger worked in the German Navy before being assigned to the concentration camp in the final months of the war.
In a trial in immigration court last year, Berger admitted that he was keeping prisoners, had not requested a transfer from the camp, and was still receiving a pension from Germany for work based in part on his war service, US officials said.
After the trial, Berger said much of what was determined in court was based on lies.
I was 19, he says. I was ordered to go.
Justice Department officials said Berger came to the United States legally. Federal law that prohibited the entry of people who aided in the Nazi persecution expired in 1957. When he applied to immigrate to the United States, Berger revealed that he had been a member of the German Navy.
Berger was fired under a 1978 law, known as the Holtzman Amendment, which prohibits anyone who participated in Nazi-sponsored persecution from entering or living in the United States.
Luisa Beck in Berlin contributed to this report.
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