MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A federal immigration judge in Memphis has ordered the removal of a Tennessee man who served Nazi Germany as a concentration camp guard during World War II.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Friedrich Karl Berger served as an armed guard in a concentration camp near Meppen, Germany. Prisoners at the camp included Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Latvians, French, Italians and anyone who opposed Nazi Germany.
During the winter of 1945, these prisoners were held in “atrocious” conditions, being worked to the point of exhaustion and even death, the justice department said.
Berger reportedly told the courts that he was ordered to stand watch over the prisoners during their workday and make sure they didn’t escape.
In March 1945, when British and Canadian forces were closing in, he helped in the forced evacuation to the main camp at Neuengamme. More than 70 people died in the two-week trip.
Berger said to this day he still receives a pension from Germany for his work, “including his wartime service.”
After a two-day trial, U.S. Immigration Judge Rebecca Holt found that Berger could be removed from the country under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act, because he willingly assisted in “Nazi-sponsored persecution.”
According to the Department of Justice, this is the 109th case that they’ve won to remove Nazi persecutors since 1979.
The New York Times reported that Berger is 94 and lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The Washington Post reached him by phone, and he told a reporter the court’s conclusions about his work at the camp were based on “lies.”
“I haven’t heard of any attorneys here locally having a case like that,” said Esperanza King, an attorney with Wells and Associates. “And haven’t heard of any recent decisions involving Nazis.”
WREG visited Holt’s office Thursday. After speaking with her office and the regional immigration center, we learned the investigation was initiated by a federal human rights government branch.
“This was a crime against humanity. The victims’ religion are not important. We’re dealing with a mass murder of innocents at an almost unconscionable scale,” said Stuart Frisch, who is director of community security with Memphis Jewish Community Partners.
Questioning a person’s Nazi connections is not an uncommon topic for immigration lawyers.
“It’s a question on the documents,” King said. “Immigration code is very specific when it comes to Nazi involvement.”
The Department of Justice did not say whether Berger will have the ability to appeal the ruling, but a removal order for Berger to return to Germany is straight-forward.
“This is justice,” Frisch said. “This is not justice in any sort of an eye for an eye way but I think in 2020 . . . I think it’s appropriate.”