Tuesday, April 25, 2017
They have not forgotten.
The Queens home of Jakiw Palij — the last known Nazi concentration camp guard still living in the United States — was the site Monday of a massive demonstration by yeshiva students commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Students from the Long Island-based Rambam Mesivta, a private Jewish high school in Lawrence, L.I., protested in front of Palij's two-story, brick Jackson Heights home.
"It is outrageous that a Nazi who is involved in killing thousands of innocent men, women and children should be able to walk the same streets that we do," said Rambam Mesivta senior Benjamin Kattan, 17, who helped organize the protest.
Assemblyman Hikind claims his deportation ad was blocked
While Palij, 92, lives on Social Security checks on a quiet Queens street, victims who suffered in concentration camps continue to have nightmares about their horror.
"That these events took place generations ago when neither I nor my classmates were born, does not take away from our obligation to remember what evil is and to forcefully speak out against it," Benjamin added.
Though local residents describe Palij as a nice elderly man, demonstrators reminded neighbors that Palij was a cog in the evil wheel of genocide, guarding a death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943 where 6,000 Jews were killed.
Eli Rosenbaum, the nation's top Nazi hunter who directs a special justice department investigation unit, once called Palij "an essential component in the machinery of annihilation."
Palij, who worked at the Treblinka concentration camp in Poland, was adjudicated in U.S. courts as a Nazi war criminal.
The Justice Department said Palij also worked at the nearby Trawinki training camps for secret service troops who would carry out the extermination of Polish Jews.
A federal judge ordered Palij deported in 2004, but none of the three European countries to which he could be sent — Germany, Poland and Ukraine — wanted to take him.
Jakiw Palij is seen outside his Queens home in 2006. At age 92, he's the last known former Nazi concentration camp guard still living in the U.S.
He moved to the U.S. in 1949, claiming at the time to be a farmer. He became a citizen in 1957.
Holocaust records project launched at FDR Library and Museum
In court papers, Palij has denied any wrongdoing — claiming he and other young men in his Polish hometown were coerced into working for the Nazi occupiers.
Palij did not appear to be home during Monday's protest and could not be reached for comment.
People who live near Palij — some weary of the protests that have become a ritual over the years — described Palij as a good neighbor.
"I knew he was a Nazi," said one neighbor, a 31-year-old man who did not want to be named. "You hear things. I wasn't surprised since the protesters come every year. I see him sometimes. He's old, you know? I try to help him sometimes. He usually stays inside. He's a nice guy. He's always been a nice guy to me.
"Just because he was in the war doesn't mean he hates people. He doesn't do nothing around here. He doesn't harm anyone. He barely comes out. We're all puppets. I'm a puppet, you're a puppet. Maybe his country just made him do those things. Who knows, man."
The school's dean, Rabbi Zev Friedman, said he isn't swayed by time or age — especially as the window for justice is closing.
"He's 92," Friedman said. "People will ask me, why not leave him alone? He was 20 years old when these crimes took place. I view him as a 20-year-old murderer that got away with crimes for 72 years, not a 92-year-old nice old man.
"If Osama Bin Laden moved into the neighborhood, we wouldn't say, 'Oh, he's an old man, leave him alone.' He's a murderer!"
Comments: Post a Comment