August 24, by Nathaly Pesantez
Elected officials are urging US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to deport a 92-year-old former Nazi guard living in Jackson Heights.
In an Aug. 23 letter to Tillerson, Congressman Joseph Crowley (D- Jackson Heights) and 20 other signees call on him to use his clout to deport Jakiw Palij, who served as a guard at Trawniki concentration camp in Poland during World War II.
Palij, who had his American citizenship revoked after an investigation by the US Department of Justice in 2003, has lived in Jackson Heights for decades, where the letter characterizes his presence in the neighborhood as “unmerited” and “a painful reminder for Americans who fought against the Nazis or lost loved ones in the Holocaust.”
Palij was granted American citizenship in 1957 after he claimed he was a farmer and a war refugee, and omitted his role as a guard at the concentration camp. After his citizenship was stripped, he was ordered in 2004 to be deported. He still remains in Jackson Height.
“Those who participated in the atrocities of the Holocaust have no place in our communities,” Crowley said in a statement. “The Nazis’ crimes were beyond heinous, and we have the responsibility to pursue justice on behalf of their victims.”
The letter signed by multiple elected officials comes after Crowley penned a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May, and two months after nearly 90 assembly members also urged Sessions to deport Palij.
In a 2003 interview with the New York Times, Palij said that when he was 18, he and many other young men in his hometown in Poland were forced by the Nazis to be guards. Palij also said he never set foot in any camp, and never took part in any killings during the war. While federal officials back his claims, they also say that by cooperating as a Nazi guard, Palij contributed to the eventual slaughter of the victims by forcing them to work or preventing them from escaping.