Ex-Nazi camp guard living in Tennessee to be deported to Germany, judge rules

About 100,000 people were imprisoned in the camp system where the man served, and at least 42,900 were killed.
The Neuengamme Concentration Camp
Neuengamme Concentration Camp.Noe Falk Nielsen / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Elisha Fieldstadt

A Tennessee man who served as an armed guard at a concentration camp in Nazi Germany during World War II was ordered deported to Germany, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Friedrich Karl Berger, a German citizen, was ordered to be removed from the United States by an immigration judge in Memphis.

U.S. Immigration Judge Rebecca L. Holt made the ruling after a two-day trial "on the basis of his service in Nazi Germany in 1945 as an armed guard of concentration camp prisoners in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp system," according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

About 100,000 people were imprisoned in the Neuengamme system between 1938 and 1945, and at least 42,900 were killed, according to the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial.

Berger served at a Neuengamme sub-camp near Meppen, Germany, where prisoners were “Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Latvians, French, Italians, and political opponents” of the Nazis, according to the Justice Department.

Meppen prisoners were held in “atrocious” conditions during the winter that began in 1944 and ended in 1945, and exploited for outdoor labor that often led to death, Holt found.

Berger admitted that he guarded prisoners to prevent them from escaping during the workday and during their trips to and from work sites and between camps and sub-camps.

As British and Canadian forces advanced on German forces in 1945, the Nazis abandoned Meppen, and Berger helped to guard prisoners during their "forcible evacuation" — "a nearly two-week trip under inhumane conditions, which claimed the lives of some 70 prisoners," the court found, according to the Justice Department.

Berger conceded that he never requested a transfer from concentration camp guard service.

He receives a pension from Germany based on his employment, “including his wartime service,” according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Holt issued her opinion "finding Berger 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 Department of Justice said.

“Berger was part of the SS machinery of oppression that kept concentration camp prisoners in atrocious conditions of confinement,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. “This ruling shows the Department's continued commitment to obtaining a measure of justice, however late, for the victims of wartime Nazi persecution.”

The investigation into Berger was initiated by the Justice Department's Human Rights and Special Prosecution Section and was conducted with assistance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center.