Friedrich Karl Berger, 94, of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who voluntarily served as an armed guard in a Neuengamme Nazi concentration camp subcamp, had been a Tennessee resident for over 75 years, and was drawing an employment-based pension which included his Nazi service, has been ordered deported to Germany by the U.S. Department of Justice, where he still has citizenship.
An index card found submerged in a sunken ship in the Baltic Sea helped federal prosecutors prove their case. Justice Department historians documented his service at the camp with information from that index card which summarized his Nazi work.
Berger emigrated from Germany to Canada after the war with his wife and daughter, and entered the United States in 1959.
While in the United States, he made a living building wire-stripping machines, and is now a widower with two grandchildren.
After a two-day trial, Judge Rebecca L. Holt, a Federal Immigration judge in Memphis, TN, found him deportable 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.
He voluntarily served as a Nazi guard at a Neuengamme subcamp near Meppen, and Hamburg, Germany, which was one of about 80 such subcamps, where Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Latvians, French, Italians, and political opponents of the Nazis were imprisoned, and held during the winter of 1945 and forced to work outdoors “to the point of exhaustion and death.”
Brian A. Benczkowski, Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ’s Criminal Division, said that “Berger was part of the SS machinery of oppression that kept concentration camp prisoners in atrocious conditions of confinement,” and that “this ruling shows the Department’s continued commitment to obtaining a measure of justice, however late, for the victims of wartime Nazi persecution.” Eli Rosenbaum, a Prosecutor with the Department of Justice helped oversee the case and has spent years at the department investigating and prosecuting Nazi war criminals in the United States.
Berger admitted that he had never requested a transfer from concentration camp guard service, and that he had continued to receive a pension from Germany based upon his Nazi service.
As British and Canadian forces advanced toward Meppen near the end of March 1945, Nazis abandoned the subcamp, and Berger guarded prisoners who were forcibly evacuated to the main camp, which was a nearly two-week trek under inhumane conditions that killed over 70 prisoners. Hundreds more were killed after they were put on two ships anchored in the Bay of Lubeck, in the Baltic Sea.
Berger said that, “After 75 years, this is ridiculous. I cannot believe it. I cannot understand how this can happen in a country like this. You’re forcing me out of my home.”