The United States has deported the last known Nazi collaborator living in the country to Germany after years of legal, diplomatic and political pressure.
Jakiw Palij had spent decades living in the Queens section of New York City after coming to the United States in 1949.
The White House said in a statement that immigration authorities carried out the deportation order early Tuesday.
It is unclear what, if any, legal proceedings the 95-year-old Palij may face in Germany.
“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 White House said.
Palij became a U.S. citizen in 1957, but in 2001 admitted to Justice Department investigators his past role as a Nazi labor camp guard in German-occupied Poland. His citizenship was stripped on the grounds he fraudulently obtained it, and in 2004 an immigration judge ordered his deportation.
During World War II, Palij trained and worked at the Trawniki forced labor camp. At the site in November 1943, Nazi SS forces killed more than 6,000 Jewish prisoners in a single day.
“By helping to prevent the escape of these prisoners during his service at Trawniki, Palij played an indispensable role in ensuring that they later met their tragic fate at the hands of the Nazis,” the Justice Department said.
The United States had asked Germany and other nations to take Palij in the past, but those requests were repeatedly denied.
Lawmakers representing New York mounted a renewed campaign focused on the case last year, and the White House said in its statement Tuesday that President Donald Trump made it a priority of his administration.
“Through extensive negotiations, President Trump and his team secured Palij’s deportation to Germany and advanced the United States’ collaborative efforts with a key European ally,” the White House said, while also blaming previous administrations for failing to carry out the deportation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said his department had successfully helped remove 67 other Nazis in the past, and that the United States “will never be a safe haven for those who have participated in atrocities, war crimes, and human rights abuses.”