KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The Oak Ridge man who faces deportation for working as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp in World War II isn't ready to give up his fight to stay in the United States.
Last month, the Board of Immigration Appeals within the U.S. Department of Justice dismissed a challenge by Friedrich Karl Berger, 95, who has been ordered out of the country by an immigration judge in Memphis.
Berger's attorney, Hugh Ward, a former federal prosecutor, said Tuesday his client still has the option to appeal to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Ward said he plans to do just that this month.
The DOJ argues federal law calls for Berger to be sent back to Germany because of his wartime conduct. In early 1945, he guarded prisoners that had been rounded up by the Nazis in northwest Germany in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp system.
Berger, then age 19, served at a sub-camp near Meppen, Germany. Prisoners there included Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, French, Italians, and political opponents of the Nazis.
He also took part in a forced march of the prisoners in the waning days of the war to the Hamburg area.
Ward said his client was conscripted into service. He never joined the Nazi party, he said.
Berger has lived quietly in the U.S. for decades.
Ward said Berger was disappointed by the board's decision and is "hoping against hope" that he'll be able to stay in East Tennessee. He also recognizes he faces an uphill legal battle.
The Department of Justice has worked for years to identify and find people it deems complicit in Nazi war crimes and persecution. The judge in Memphis ruled in February that Berger should leave.
“Berger’s willing service as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp cannot be erased and will not be ignored,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt said in a statement last month following the board's ruling.
When the Nazis abandoned Meppen as allied forces began moving in, Berger served as a guard while prisoners were forced into a nearly two-week evacuation, according to the court. According to the government, about 70 prisoners died during the trek.
According to the DOJ, Berger admitted he never requested a transfer from concentration camp guard service and still gets a pension from Germany based on his employment in Germany, “including his wartime service.”
Deputy Assistant Director Louis A. Rodi III, of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations National Security Investigations Division, said in last month's statement that Berger had tried to "shed his nefarious past to come to America and start anew, but thanks to the dedication of those at the Department of Justice and Homeland Security Investigations, the truth was revealed.”