Nazi guard update: 95-year-old needed special plane for deportation
The admitted Nazi labor camp guard took a special plane back to Germany according to ICE
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - An admitted Nazi labor camp guard is no longer allowed back in the U.S. according to ICE.
95-year-old Fritz Berger used to call Oak Ridge home. Now the admitted Nazi labor camp guard is back in his original home - Germany.
Former federal immigration judge, John Richardson sat on the bench for 28 years (though not the Berger case). He said the law for deportation is clear.
“It really doesn’t matter how long he’s lived here, because the burden of proof is the same,” Judge Richardson said.
Here’s how the eventual ‘removal’ began. In February 2019, ICE agents knocked on Friedrich Berger’s front door in Oak Ridge.
“ICE communicated details of Berger’s impending removal with him and one of his family members in advance of his removal date,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.
ICE says that Fritz needed extra care - a chartered plane - to return to Germany.
Berger was flown to Europe on a special aircraft called an air ambulance. ICE deportation officers accompanied him, along with medical staff.
From McGhee Tyson to Bangor, Maine, and on to Frankfurt, Germany. He initially agreed to meet with German police for their investigation, but after a few weeks, declined to talk and lead the case to be dropped.
Before Berger was deported to Germany, he clarified his role at Neuengamme Camp.
“I was just a guard,” Berger said. “I am not SS.”
Germany’s very strict privacy laws won’t reveal where Berger is living. The German police who tried to interview Berger didn’t return our call or emails.
David Rising – a Berlin based writer for the Associated Press – said the case is shelved. Rising said that the Berger case never really made an impact in Germany.
Before 2019, Berger was basically unknown outside the neighborhood; the Tennessee Holocaust Commission wasn’t even aware of Berger.
“I mean, no one expects that their neighbor or a community member was a participant in the holocaust,” Cammy Harris said. She works with the Nashville group. “A lot of our survivors were really affected and had really strong opinions on it.”
Including Sonja DuBois. The Knoxville resident was hidden as a child when her parents and all four grandparents were killed in the Holocaust.
“This was an orchestrated annihilation,” DuBois said.
“Mr. Berger is safe and sound, not in any type of custody and wishes to remain in peace,” said Berger’s attorney.
DuBois wishes her parents could have lived safe and sound.
“I don’t care what depth he was involved in,” DuBois said. “Whether he just watched, he was following orders to put people to death.”
Berger only answered one phone call.
“It’s all lies. It’s all lies what the government is saying about me,” Berger said.
And yet, he admitted to being a guard at a Nazi-backed labor camp.
“One of the big take-aways from the Berger story is, you never know. You never know where people landed, you never know what people’s history is,” said Harris.
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