US deports former Nazi camp guard, 95, to Germany
By MICHAEL R. SISAK, DAVID RISING and RANDY HERSCHAFT
Tuesday, August 21
BERLIN (AP) — The last Nazi war crimes suspect facing deportation from the U.S. was taken from his New York City home and spirited early Tuesday morning to Germany, following years of efforts to remove him from the United States.
The deportation of the 95-year-old former Nazi camp guard, Jakiw Palij, came 25 years after investigators first confronted him about his World War II past and he admitted lying to get into the U.S., claiming he spent the war as a farmer and factory worker.
Palij lived quietly in the U.S. for years, as a draftsman and then as a retiree, until nearly three decades ago when investigators found his name on an old Nazi roster and a fellow former guard spilled the secret that he was “living somewhere in America.”
Palij told Justice Department investigators who showed up at his door in 1993: “I would never have received my visa if I told the truth. Everyone lied.”
A judge stripped Palij’s citizenship in 2003 for “participation in acts against Jewish civilians” while an armed guard at the Trawniki camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and was ordered deported a year later.
But because Germany, Poland, Ukraine, and other countries refused to take him, he continued living in limbo in the two-story, red brick home in Queens he shared with his wife, Maria, now 86. His continued presence there outraged the Jewish community, attracting frequent protests over the years that featured such chants as “your neighbor is a Nazi!”
According to the Justice Department, Palij served at Trawniki in 1943, the same year 6,000 prisoners in the camps and tens of thousands of other prisoners held in occupied Poland were rounded up and slaughtered. Palij has admitted serving in Trawniki but denied any involvement in war crimes.
Last September, all 29 members of New York’s congressional delegation signed a letter urging the State Department to follow through on his deportation.
Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador who arrived in Germany earlier this year, said President Donald Trump — who is from New York — instructed him to make it a priority. He said the new German government, which took office in March, brought “new energy” to the matter.
The deportation came after weeks of diplomatic negotiations.
Grenell told reporters that there were “difficult conversations” because Palij is not a German citizen and was stateless after losing his U.S. citizenship, but “the moral obligation” of taking in “someone who served in the name of the German government was accepted.”
Video footage from ABC News showed federal immigration agents carrying Palij out of his Queens apartment on a stretcher sometime during the day Monday.
Palij, with a fluffy white beard and a brown, newsboy-style cap atop his head, was wrapped in a sheet as the agents carried him down a brick stairway in front of his home and into a waiting ambulance. He ignored a reporter who shouted, “Are you a Nazi?” and “Do you have any regrets?”
His attorney, Ivars Berzins, did not immediately return telephone or email messages.
Palij landed in the western German city of Duesseldorf on Tuesday. The local government in Warendorf county, near Muenster, said Palij would be taken to a care facility in the town of Ahlen.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “there is no line under historical responsibility,” adding in comment to German daily Bild that doing justice to the memory of Nazi atrocities “means standing by our moral obligation to the victims and the subsequent generations.”
German prosecutors have previously said it does not appear that there’s enough evidence to charge Palij with wartime crimes.
Now that he is in Germany, Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he hoped prosecutors would revisit the case.
“Trawniki was a camp where people were trained to round up and murder the Jews in Poland, so there’s certainly a basis for some sort of prosecution,” he said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem, adding that the U.S. Department of Justice “deserves a lot of credit” for sticking with the case.
“The efforts invested by the United States in getting Palij deported are really noteworthy and I’m very happy to see that they finally met with success.”
Palij’s deportation is the first for a Nazi war crimes suspect since Germany agreed in 2009 to take John Demjanjuk, a retired Ohio autoworker who was accused of serving as a Nazi guard. He was convicted in 2011 of being an accessory to more than 28,000 killings and died 10 months later, at age 91, with his appeal pending.
Palij, whose full name is pronounced Yah-keev PAH’-lee, entered the U.S. in 1949 under the Displaced Persons Act, a law meant to help refugees from post-war Europe.
He told immigration officials that he worked during the war in a wood shop and farm in Nazi-occupied Poland; at another farm in Germany; and finally in a German upholstery factory. Palij said he never served in the military.
In reality, officials say, he played an essential role in the Nazi program to exterminate Jews in German-occupied Poland, as an armed guard at Trawniki. According to a Justice Department complaint, Palij served in a unit that “committed atrocities against Polish civilians and others” and then in the notorious SS Streibel Battalion, “a unit whose function was to round up and guard thousands of Polish civilian forced laborers.”
After the war, Palij maintained friendships with other Nazi guards who the government says came to the U.S. under similar false pretenses. And in an interesting coincidence, Palij and his wife purchased their home near LaGuardia Airport in 1966 from a Polish Jewish couple who had survived the Holocaust and were not aware of his past.
The Justice Department’s special Nazi-hunting unit started piecing together Palij’s past after a fellow Trawniki guard identified him to Canadian authorities in 1989. Investigators asked Russia and other countries for records on Palij beginning in 1990 and first confronted him in 1993.
It wasn’t until after a second interview in 2001 that he signed a document acknowledging he had been a guard at Trawniki and a member of the Streibel Battalion. Palij suggested at one point during that interview that he was threatened with death if he refused to work as a guard, saying “if you don’t show up, boom-boom.”
Though the last Nazi suspect ordered deported, Palij is not the last in the U.S.
Since 2017, Poland has been seeking the extradition of Ukrainian-born Michael Karkoc, an ex-commander in an SS-led Nazi unit that burned Polish villages and killed civilians during the war. The 99-year-old who currently lives in Minneapolis was the subject of a series of 2013 reports by the AP that led Polish prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant for him.
In addition to Karkoc, there are almost certainly others in the U.S. who have either not yet been identified or investigated by authorities.
The American public did not become fully aware until the 1970s that thousands of Nazi persecutors had gone to the U.S. after World War II. Some estimates say 10,000 may have made the U.S. their home after the war.
Since then, the Justice Department has initiated legal proceedings against 137 suspected Nazis, with about half, 67, being removed by deportation, extradition or voluntary departure. Of the rest, 28 died while their cases were pending and 9 were ordered deported but died in the U.S. because no other country was willing to take them.
Sisak and Herschaft reported from New York. Rising reported from Berlin. Geir Moulson contributed from Berlin.
Opinion: Democrats Down to ‘Hail Mary’ Moves in Kavanaugh Fight
By Michael Graham
If you can’t beat ’em, sue ’em.
That appears to be Sen. Chuck Schumer and the Senate Democratic leadership’s strategy on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. And on at least one point, they appear to absolutely correct:
They can’t beat ’em.
Republican senators show no sign of abandoning Kavanaugh. As long as the 51 GOP senators support him (assuming Sen. John McCain is healthy enough to vote), Kavanaugh is a lock.
And thus far, public support appears to be making their job easier. A new Quinnipiac poll found that, after several million dollars in negative ads funded by the liberal dark-money organization Demand Justice and generally unflattering media coverage, a plurality of voters support his confirmation, 44 percent to 39 percent. That’s not significantly different from Quinnipiac’s poll released July 25.
With a clearly qualified candidate, public polls generally favoring support, and at least three Senate Democrats representing red states where Kavanaugh’s confirmation is strongly favored — Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia — the political wind is strongly at the backs of Sen. Mitch McConnell and the GOP.
Sen. Chuck Schumer knows it. In July, the Democratic leader in the Senate declared to the Democratic base: “I will oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have. The stakes are simply too high for anything less.”
Schumer isn’t alone. About a half-dozen Democrats have met with Kavanaugh or are scheduled to meet this week, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Claire McCaskill.
The media appear to have largely accepted the inevitable as well. The “scandal” stories surrounding Kavanaugh thus far have focused on such marginal issues as his credit-card purchases of tickets to see the Washington Nationals play baseball, and memos from the Monica Lewinsky investigation urging uncomfortably-blunt questioning of then-President Bill Clinton about his behavior in the Oval Office.
As the Washington Post recently acknowledged, “barring a major revelation, the Senate is poised to install the 53-year-old Kavanaugh on the high court.”
The hearings are going to be held September 4-7. Democrats don’t have the votes to stop him. The handwriting is on the wall. But nobody in the Democratic leadership wants to read it to the progressive base.
“It’s really a test for Schumer,” says Elizabeth Beavers of the anti-Trump organization Indivisible. “Is he going to be the minority leader who lost Roe?”
What the progressive base wants is “more fury” from Senate Democrats, says Brian Fallon, a former Schumer aide now at Demand Justice.
And so Democrats say they’re going to court.
Senate Democrats are threatening to sue the National Archives for documents related to Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House serving as staff secretary. More than 230,000 documents have been released to the Senate Judiciary Committee by the George W. Bush White House archives, but Democrats want more. They are even demanding documents that merely contain Kavanaugh’s name, whether he wrote them — or even saw them.
That would involve more than 1 million documents.
The argument that Democrats need more information about Kavanaugh is considered nonsense by his advocates, who point out how extensive Kavanaugh’s record was before a single document was released.
“Judge Kavanaugh has served for 12 years on the D.C. Circuit, widely regarded as the most important federal appellate court in the country,” says Carrie Severino of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network. “In that time he has authored 307 opinions, all available in the public domain, and signed onto hundreds more.
“His record has been supplemented by the most extensive bipartisan questionnaire the Senate Judiciary Committee has ever received, his answers running more than 100 pages themselves and with more than 17,000 pages of appendices making an exhaustive review of his previous legal work, publications and public speaking.”
Throw in the hundreds of thousands of documents being reviewed and forwarded to the Senate from the George W. Bush archives, and that’s quite a public record. More to the point, it’s apparently enough of a record for the public.
Which is what the Democrats’ threatened lawsuit is about: Changing that public perception and, it is hoped, changing one or two Republican votes. Sen. Schumer has said so himself.
“If those documents come out, it (maybe) will persuade others to vote against him. Including some on the Republican side.” And that’s the only reason for the Democrat-demanded document dump.
Heading to court hoping to find some political silver bullet to stop the Kavanaugh nomination is the Democratic equivalent of a “Hail Mary” pass. It’s an indication that Sen. Schumer’s true strategy is to let his party’s base see the Senate put up a good fight — but not so good that they lose seats in Trump-friendly North Dakota, Indiana or Missouri.
In other words, all the things you do when you know you can’t win.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Michael Graham is political editor of NH Journal. He is also a CBS News contributor. You can reach him at email@example.com. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Moon-Kim Summit Will Be a Test for South Korea’s Leader
By Donald Kirk
SEOUL — Summit fever these days is as hot as the weather. We face weeks of heated debate in the run-up to a third summit between South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and maybe a second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim. The Moon-Kim summit is going to test Moon’s willingness to stand up to Kim.
The overriding North Korean demands are for the South to get the United States and the United Nations to do away with sanctions and for the United States to fall for a “peace declaration” before the North does a thing about “denuclearization,” however that word is defined. Moon has agreed to see Kim in Pyongyang in September, but he has avoided setting a date. His hesitation about when to go to Pyongyang adds to uncertainty about how to respond to the North’s demands.
Contrary to what his critics may say, Moon may not be a pushover for Kim. Yes, he would like nothing better than to go down in Korean history as the South Korean leader who brought about reconciliation with the North. No, he doesn’t want to achieve that goal by betraying the U.S.-South Korean alliance, by coming up with a deal with the North that would compromise South Korea’s defenses and by giving up all bargaining power on denuclearization.
Moon would love to have it both ways, to sign a statement in Pyongyang on general principles for peace that still does not yield totally to all that Kim wants. Above all, he has got to make it clear that North Korea has to take significant steps toward giving up its nuclear program. In deference to the North’s sensitivities, the United States seems to have dropped the term “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization,” but derogatory allusions to plain old denuclearization in the North’s state media indicate they don’t care much for that idea either.
That’s because the North remains deeply committed to its status as the world’s ninth nuclear weapons state and is not going to climb down regardless of whatever deal is reached. If the United States were to go along with a “peace declaration,” accepting some vague ambivalent assurances about denuclearization, there would be no way to bring the North to terms. For the United States and South Korea, their bargaining power rests on the sanctions adopted by the United States and the United Nations after the North’s missile and nuclear tests, most recently last September.
There is, however, a counter-argument. So what if the North has a few dozen nuclear warheads in storage? What does it matter if they’re still developing the long-range missiles to “deliver” them to distant targets, and who cares if they’ve got biological and chemical weapons too? You don’t hear too many people in South Korea, or the United States, worrying about imminent nuclear attack. The reason for the lack of urgency is that no one quite believes Kim is going to fire away for real knowing the holy hell that would descend on him if he did.
North Korea, however, has other ways of undermining South Korean and American resolve, notably by unending emphasis on a “peace declaration” that would wind up jeopardizing the peace that has prevailed over the Korean Peninsula since the armistice was signed at Panmunjom more than 65 years ago.
The reason the North wants this otherwise meaningless statement is that it would lead to a “peace treaty” under which the United States would have to withdraw most of the 28,500 troops it still has in South Korea. No, North Korea would definitely not begin to pull back the thousands of artillery pieces or hundreds of thousands of troops poised within striking distance of the South. In fact, their capacity to attack the South, as they did in 1950, would be enhanced as the South follows through on the idea of abandoning its 60 or so guard posts south of the DMZ. That done, does anyone think the North would give up its 160 guard posts on the other side of the line?
These are some of issues and questions Moon and his advisers may be asking as Moon thinks about going to Pyongyang, paying obeisance to the ruler from the North who believes he can force his hand with sweet talk and dire warnings. For Moon, the challenge will be to walk through this minefield without stepping on any mines, as Trump did in Singapore when he was led to believe he and Kim had resolved the whole nuclear issue.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Donald Kirk has been a columnist for Korea Times, South China Morning Post many other newspaper and magazines. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Opinion: Michael Avenatti Is a ‘Cage Match’ Fighter Ready to Face a WWE President
By Michael Graham
Michael Avenatti says there’s a “small subset” of Democrats with the skills to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 — and he’s one of them.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting a different result,” Avenatti told NHJournal in an exclusive interview. “If the Democratic Party thinks that they’re going to nominate someone like the other 16 or 17, highly qualified, experienced politicians that Donald Trump beat in 2016, and expect a different outcome — they’re kidding themselves.”
Michael Avenatti is a plaintiff’s lawyer who says he’s won more than $1 billion in settlements, he’s a former professional race car driver, and he had a brief partnership in the coffee business with Patrick Dempsey (they ended up in a lawsuit). He also worked for years with former Barack Obama political insider and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel doing campaign work and opposition research. But Avenatti is best known for representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against her one-time hook-up, President Donald Trump.
Avenatti, speaking to NHJournal a day after his first exploratory visit to New Hampshire, said Democrats need a completely different approach to beat a candidate like Trump.
Running against Trump “is going to be a cage match,” Avenatti said. “You can say what you want about Donald Trump — and there’s a lot to say, and I have said a lot and I’m going to say a lot more — but if there’s one thing he is, it’s a fighter. The guy knows how to mix it up. I think he’s very strong on delivering his message.”
“A Democratic Party official who’s been around a long time made this point: ‘The Democratic Party has a lot of talent, but it doesn’t have a lot of fighters.’ And I think that’s been true for a long time,” Avenatti said.
Is Avenatti the Democrats’ solution to this problem?
“One of the brands that I will own if I decide to run is that I’m the fighter,” he said. “I do think the party is going to need a fighter to go up against this guy. I think it’s a very unique situation. I think Trump’s a very unique candidate that should not be underestimated.”
And, according to Avenatti, Trump has to be stopped.
“I think that we are sitting on a powder keg right now with this president. If Donald Trump remains president, I think it is only a matter of time before we have a significant international incident. And that concerns me greatly because the consequences could be insurmountable,” Avenatti said.
“Secondly, I’m a student of the law. I understand the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court on everyday life in America. If Donald Trump is re-elected in 2020, there’s no question the court is going to 7-2. And I can envision Clarence Thomas deciding to retire, and conservatives will pick up another 25 or 30 years on that particular seat. And that’s not something that can just be undone or unwound by electing or throwing out a Congress,” Avenatti said.
But what about the argument that if the Democrats send in an over-the-top “cage match” fighter like Avenatti to take out Trump that leaves you with a WWE presidency either way? How is Avenatti, who brags “when they go low, we hit harder” and openly complains about his party’s “gentleness” an improvement?
“I think anybody that witnesses me and spends any time communicating with me knows that I would restore order to the executive branch,” Avenatti says. “I would not be an extension of what we’ve seen. There’s no question that I would be a far more respectable president than Donald Trump. You won’t get any all-caps tweets or any of the other nonsense that this buffoon of a president engages in every day.”
At the party fundraiser in New Hampshire, several Democrats in the crowd expressed reservations about backing an abrasive, untested candidate like Avenatti.
“I think I’d like to have him as my lawyer, but maybe not my president,” one local Democrat said. Michael Avenatti has a message for Democrats thinking this way:
“The people that want to go back to the way things were from a media perspective, you know, eight or 12 or 16 years ago — that’s never going to happen. This is a new age. Democrats need to realize this. When you’re going up against a big personality like Donald Trump, you better have somebody that has a big personality, too. Someone who knows how to operate in this new media environment,” Avenatti said.
And the right man with all the right skills is Michael Avenatti. Don’t believe it? Just ask him.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Michael Graham is political editor of NH Journal. He is also a CBS News contributor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.