June 14, By Jason Cohen
Nearly 90 Assembly Members signed on to a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions yesterday that calls for the deportation of a Nazi death camp guard who lives in Jackson Heights.
The effort was led by Assembly Members Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) and Michael Simanowitz (D-Queens), with local assembly members Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) and Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) among the dozens signing on (see letter below).
Jakiw Palij, 92, a resident of Jackson Heights, was a guard at the notorious Treblinka death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during 1943, when some 6,000 Jews were killed and buried in pits.
After WWII, the Polish-born Palij came to America claiming he was a farmer, and was granted citizenship in 1957. Once his past was uncovered, he was subsequently stripped of his U.S. citizenship, which the government claimed was obtained illegally and under false pretenses–triggering the deportation process. His deportation order was upheld by the courts in 2004 but as of today Palij remains a resident of Queens.
“Jakiw Palij’s presence in Queens is an insult to the memories of millions of Holocaust victims, and those who continue to bear their pain to this day,” said Assemblyman Simanowitz, who represents Forest Hills and Kew Gardens. “The atrocities committed by Palij are unspeakable; to gift him the hard-fought freedoms of this country is intolerable. I stand with my colleagues in calling for his deportation and for justice to be served.”
However, in 2003 Palij told the New York Times, he never killed anyone during the war. He claimed that at the age of 18 he was taken to the camp and forced to work as a guard and wore a different uniform than the Nazis. The federal government never accused of being directly involved in the killings. Rather, it claimed that by cooperating as a Nazi guard, he ”directly contributed to their eventual slaughter” by preventing the victims from escaping.
In May, Rep. Joe Crowley (D- Jackson Heights) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking him to deport Palij.