Former Nazi guard stripped of citizenship

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A federal judge in Brooklyn stripped a Queens resident and Polish immigrant of his U.S. citizenship last Thursday on the basis that he had gained entry into the country in 1949 by lying about his past as a Nazi, U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf said.

Attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice have been pushing for the deportation of Jakiw Palij, 79, of 33-18 89th St. in Jackson Heights for more than a year after filing a complaint against him in May 2002.

According to Mauskopf, who heads the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, Judge Allyne Ross said the attorneys had presented sufficient evidence to support the claim that Palij had acted as an armed Nazi guard at Trawniki Labor Camp in Poland during World War II and could be tied to the Nazi conspiracy that "resulted in the murder of 1.7 million Jews."

Mauskopf and other DOJ officials praised the decision.

"Today's decision strikes a blow against the lingering evil of the Nazis and their collaborators," Mauskopf said in a statement. "We will never relent in our efforts to purge our country of those complicit in the Holocaust."

Palij lied and told immigration officials he had worked on his father's farm during World War II when he entered the country in 1949, Mauskopf said. He became a U.S. citizen in 1957 and lives in Jackson Heights with his wife.

The complaint against Palij did not personally accuse him of murder, but it contended that he "acquiesced in activities or conduct contrary to civilization and human decency."

In addition, the complaint said thousands of Jews were forced into brutal labor at the Trawniki camp during the course of the war and that Palij was involved in their ongoing suffering and helped prevent them from escaping.

Ross found that 6,000 Jewish prisoners were killed at Trawniki on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4, 1943, a year in which Palij served at the camp, Mauskopf said.

The charges against Palij are part of an ongoing effort to rid the country of people formerly affiliated with the Nazi Party. Seventy-two individuals who took part in Nazi persecution have been stripped of their citizenship since 1979, 57 of whom have been deported from the country, Mauskopf said.

Palij's attorney, Ivan Berzins, has said he would not discuss the case with reporters, but news reports said Palij would appeal the decision, a process which could take months or years.

Reach the Timesledger newsroom by e-mail at, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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