Ninety-five-year-old Friedrich Karl Berger was ordered to be removed from the United States after investigators learned the German citizen had participated in Nazi-sponsored persecution in 1945 at the Neuengamme Concentration Camp system where Berger worked as an armed guard of concentration camp prisoners, according to ICE.
A court found that Berger served at a Neuengamme sub-camp near Meppen, Germany. The camp housed political prisoners of the Nazis, including Poles, Russians, Jews, Latvians, Italians, the French and other political opponents. The largest groups at the prison were Russian, Dutch and Polish civilians.
Following a two-day trial in Feb. 2020, a judge issued an opinion finding the Meppen prisoners were held in "atrocious" conditions during the winter of 1945. The court found prisoners there were exploited for outdoor forced labor and worked "to the point of the exhaustion and death." The court also found that Berger admitted working as a prison guard to prevent prisoners from escaping.
As allied British and Canadian forces advanced into Germany at the end of Mar. 1945, the Nazis abandoned Meppen and marched prisoners back to the main camp at Neuengamme. The evacuation of prisoners took nearly two weeks under inhumane conditions and claimed the lives of some 70 prisoners. The court also found that Berger never requested a transfer from concentration camp guard service and continues to receive a pension from Germany based at least in part on "his wartime service."
Berger was determined to be removable under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act.
"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," said Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson. "The Department marshaled evidence that our Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section found in archives here and in Europe, including records of the historic trial at Nuremberg of the most notorious former leaders of the defeated Nazi regime. In this year in which we mark the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg convictions, this case shows that the passage even of many decades will not deter the Department from pursuing justice on behalf of the victims of Nazi crimes."
In 1946, British occupation authorities charged SS Obersturmführer Hans Griem, who headed the Meepen sub-camps, along with other camp personnel, with war crimes for the "ill-treatment and murder of Allied nationals." Griem managed to escape before the trials, but the British court tried and convicted a number of the remaining defendants of war crimes in 1947.
The investigation and prosecution of Berger were handled by the Department of Justice's Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, ICE's Office of Principal Legal Advisor (Memphis, Tennessee), Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) and Homeland Security Investigations’ field office in Knoxville, Tennessee.
ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center is tasked with investigating human rights violators evading justice in the United States. Such individuals may have participated in war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, severe violations of religious freedom, female genital mutilation/cutting and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. Such individuals may use fraudulent identities or falsified documents to evade capture.
Since 2003, ICE has arrested more than 460 individuals for human rights-related violations and obtained deportation orders against and physically removed 1064 known or suspected human rights violators from the U.S.
ICE is currently working on more than 155 active investigations of suspected human rights violations. Additionally, the agency is pursuing more than 1,675 leads and removal cases that involve suspected human rights violators from more than 90 countries.