If you’ve read the news at all this week, you’ll have heard of Jakiw Palij. A former Nazi, this week Palij has finally been deported to his native Germany, ending a 15-year-long fight by New York City officials to get the 95-year-old out of the US.
What has not less widely reported, however, is that in a cruel twist of fate, Palij purchased his two-storey Jackson Heights home from unaware Holocaust survivors.
The son of the couple who sold Palij the Queens borough townhouse told The New York Post: “They would have been horrified.”
He also shared that if his father had known of Palij’s history, then “I don’t think [Palij] would have gotten out of that house alive.”
A member of the SS, Palij was a guard at the Trawniki concentration camp in Poland, where 6000 jews were killed during World War II. US officials say the camp contributed one of the largest body counts of the Holocaust.
Palij entered the US in 1949, lying to get in under the displaced person’s act designed to help refugees. He then happily settled in America with his wife and stayed under the radar. That was until investigators spotted his name on a roster Trawniki-trained men in the 1980s.
Palij was stripped of his citizenship in 2003, and was originally meant to be deported in 2004, but as no country would take him the process has taken 14 years to complete.
Finally, Palij was arrested on Monday, and arrived back in Germany on Tuesday morning. However, he denies committing war crimes on the behalf of the Nazi Government.
.@ABC EXCLUSIVE: The last Nazi collaborator deported — ABC News was there as ICE agents wheeled 95 year old Jakiw Palij from his New York home: https://t.co/OmHJYmyw5V@tarapalmeri reports. pic.twitter.com/2SDW3tzgvY
— Good Morning America (@GMA) August 21, 2018
He said: “I am not SS. I have nothing to do with SS.”
But the the Department of Justice says he actively worked to uphold the Nazi regime.
In a statement, the DOJ said: “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.”
Unfortunately, the son of Holocaust survivors who sold Palij the house said the deportation was “50 years too late.”