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Nazi concentration camp guard living in Tennessee ordered to leave country

Berger reportedly worked as an armed guard of concentration camp prisoners in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp system (Neuengamme).
Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 6:05 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2020 at 1:21 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - An appeal filed earlier this year to remove Tennessee resident Friedrich Karl Berger, a German citizen who served in Nazi Germany in 1945 as an armed guard of concentration camp prisoners, is being upheld, according to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

Berger reportedly worked as an armed guard of concentration camp prisoners in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp system.

“Berger’s willing service as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp cannot be erased and will not be ignored,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “On the eve of tomorrow’s 75th anniversary of the commencement of the Nuremberg trials of the surviving leaders of the defeated Nazi regime, this case shows that the passage of time will not deter the department from fulfilling the moral imperative of seeking justice for the victims of their heinous crimes.”

“Berger was an active participant in one of the darkest chapters in human history. He attempted to shed his nefarious past to come to America and start anew, but thanks to the dedication of those at the Department of Justice and Homeland Security Investigations, the truth was revealed,” said Deputy Assistant Director Louis A. Rodi III, of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) National Security Investigations Division, which oversees the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center. “War criminals and violators of human rights will not be allowed to evade justice and find safe haven here.”

A Memphis judge’s Feb. 28, 2020 decision to remove Berger has been upheld by the BIA. Berger is removable under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act because his “willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place” constituted assistance in Nazi-sponsored persecution.

“The court found that Berger served at a Neuengamme sub-camp near Meppen, Germany, and that the prisoners there included ‘Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Latvians, French, Italians, and political opponents’ of the Nazis. The largest groups of prisoners were Russian, Dutch and Polish civilians,” according to a release.

According to Berger’s sworn testimony, Berger only served as a camp guard because it was a duty assigned to him by the German Navy. He and around 80 other German Navy men were ordered to fulfill the assignment, which the testimony says was not optional.

In the testimony, Berger’s attorney laid out a set of duties assigned to Berger during his required assignment which included staying in barracks outside of the camps and never entering them. It goes on to say he was always supervised by German Navy personnel and his assignment was to escort prisoners to their worksites, guard them to make sure they didn’t escape while working and take them back to the camps at the end of the day.

Berger’s testimony adds that he never had a prisoner escape and was never instructed on what to do in that scenario. It concludes by stating Berger moved to the United States in July of 1959 and during his time in the country he never had “adverse encounters with the law” and was regularly employed until he retired in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

The judge ruled that Meppen prisoners were held during the winter of 1945 in “atrocious” conditions and were exploited for outdoor forced labor, working “to the point of exhaustion and death.”

“The court further found, and Berger admitted, that he guarded prisoners to prevent them from escaping during their dawn-to-dusk workday, and on their way to the worksites and also on their way back to the SS-run subcamp in the evening,” the release reads.

“The trial and appeal of the removal case were handled by Eli Rosenbaum, Director of Human Rights Enforcement and Policy in the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP), HRSP Senior Trial Attorney Susan Masling, and attorneys from ICE New Orleans, Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (Memphis), with assistance from HRSP Chief Historian Jeffrey S. Richter, and the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center,” the release reads.

This case was investigated by the HRSP in partnership with the Nashville ICE HSI office.

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