MEMPHIS, Tenn. (NewsNation Now) — A 95-year-old Tennessee resident identified as a former guard of Nazi concentration camp prisoners has been removed from the U.S. and sent to Germany.
The Department of Justice announced that German citizen Friedrich Karl Berger was removed from the U.S. on Friday. Berger, whose removal was ordered a year ago, is the 70th Nazi persecutor removed from the United States, according to the DOJ.
Berger “participated in Nazi-sponsored persecution” while serving as a concentration camp guard in 1945, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said in a statement.
“Berger’s removal demonstrates the Department of Justice’s and its law enforcement partners’ commitment to ensuring that the United States is not a safe haven for those who have participated in Nazi crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses,” Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson said in a statement.
German authorities confirmed Berger arrived Saturday at Frankfurt and was handed over to Hesse state investigators for questioning, the dpa news agency reported.
Berger was ordered expelled by a Memphis, Tennessee court in February 2020.
German prosecutors in the city of Celle investigated the possibility of bringing charges against him, but said in December that they had shelved the probe because they had been unable to refute his own account of his service at Neuengamme.
Berger admitted to U.S. authorities that he served as a guard at a camp in northwestern Germany, which was a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp, for a few weeks near the end of the war but said he did not observe any abuse or killings, Celle prosecutors said.
Celle prosecutors asked for him to be questioned again upon his return to Germany, however, to determine whether accessory to murder charges could be brought, police said.
In recent years, German prosecutors have successfully argued that by helping a death camp or concentration camp function, guards can be found guilty of accessory to murder even if there is no evidence of them participating in a specific killing.
According to an ICE statement, Berger served at the subcamp near Meppen, Germany, where prisoners – Russian, Polish, Dutch, Jewish and others – were held in “atrocious” conditions and were worked “to the point of exhaustion and death.”
Berger admitted that he guarded prisoners to prevent them from escaping. He also accompanied prisoners on the forced evacuation of the camp that resulted in the deaths of 70 prisoners.
Berger has been living in the U.S. since 1959.
“We are committed to ensuring the United States will not serve as a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals,” said acting ICE Director Tae Johnson, “We will never cease to pursue those who persecute others. This case exemplifies the steadfast dedication of both ICE and the Department of Justice to pursue justice and to hunt relentlessly for those who participated in one of history’s greatest atrocities, no matter how long it takes.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.