U.S. Department of Justice(NEW YORK) — Jakiw Palij, a man authorities say is a former Nazi concentration camp guard who was deported to Germany this week, is unlikely to be prosecuted for war crimes there due to insufficient evidence.
Justice Department officials say Palij served as an armed guard at a death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. His deportation came 25 years after Palij, who had been living in Queens, New York, was first accused of lying about his Nazi past to obtain a U.S. visa. In 2003, a judge stripped him of his U.S. citizenship and ordered him to be deported.
At the time, Palij denied that he was a collaborator, telling The New York Times he was conscripted at 18 when the Nazis took over his farm.
"I know what they say, but I was never a collaborator," Palij told the New York Times in 2003.
Representatives for Palij declined ABC News' request for comment.
The Trump administration released a statement after Palij landed in Germany early Tuesday.
"President Trump commends his Administration’s comprehensive actions, especially ICE’s actions, in removing this war criminal from United States soil," the statement read, in part.
The statement also said that Palij had lied about not being involved.
"Palij had lied about being a Nazi and remained in the United States for decades," the statement said. "Palij’s removal sends a strong message: The United States will not tolerate those who facilitated Nazi crimes and other human rights violations, and they will not find a safe haven on American soil."
The decision to finally send him to Germany Tuesday was at the urging of President Trump and came after weeks of discussion.
Authorities in the town of Würzburg closed the case against him in 2015 because he could not be specifically linked to anyone's death.
"By itself, the transfer from the U.S. changes nothing as far as the body of evidence and the grounds for suspicion in Germany are concerned," Jens Rommel, known as the "Nazi Hunter," told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Wednesday. Rommel leads Germany's Central Office of the State Judicial Authorities for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes.
"Theoretically, the public prosecutor's office in Würzburg could resume its proceedings if it comes to a different evaluation. For that, though, it would principally require evidence connecting the person with the specific crime," Rommel told Deutsche Welle.
That evidence, Rommel added, is lacking.
While Americans may be celebrating the expulsion, Germans are left with a "bitter aftertaste," an article in left-leaning newspaper Taz on Wednesday pointed out. Palij will "live here for the rest of his life. He will be cared for, receive financial help; a roof, food and clothing," comforts he would not have received from the government in the U.S., Taz reported.
Palij will live in a care facility in the town of Ahlen in Western Germany, according to local officials.
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