Tuesday night somewhere in the state of West Virginia Trump announced that “The last known Nazi officer living in the United States, they’ve been trying to get him out for decades, President Obama tried, they all tried. We got him out — gone. He’s back in Germany.”
Was Jakiw Palif the man referred to by Trump a Nazi officer? Was he a Nazi? According to Wikipedia “When it came to power in 1933, the Nazi Party had over 2 million members. In 1939, the membership total rose to 5.3 million with 81% being male and 19% being female. It continued to attract many more and by 1945 the party reached its peak of 8 million with 63% being male and 37% being female (about 10% of the German population of 80 million).”
I suppose if that is the case we cannot say all Germans were Nazis or can we? If any of those Germans helped the Nazis would they have become Nazis?
Jakiw Palif was Polish. I believe the Nazi party did not accept Slavic people as members. I have to assume then that no one is suggesting that he joined the Nazi Party (other than Trump). When the Germany invaded his country on September 1, 1939, he was either 15 or 16 years old. It would turn out that by the time he was 18 he had been conscripted to work for the German Army as a prison guard. If one is put in that position does he become a Nazi?
During WWII tens of millions of French citizens worked for the Nazis. The Nazis had invaded France and occupied a part of it and allowed the French to set up a government in the rest of it which became know as unoccupied France, or Vichy France. It got that name because its leaders operated out of the town of Vichy. Although unoccupied, the French had no army to defend it so it did its best to keep the Nazis happy by collaborating with them.
The Nazis set up quotas for the French workers in the unoccupied part of France to be sent to Germany to work to assist the German war effort. Some worked in the German armament factories. No one called those French people conscripted by the Nazis to work in Germany Nazis.
The Nazis did that to the people in other countries that it had occupied. It took by force young men and women back to Germany to work. One had no choice. It was work for us or die. The Nazis allowed some French to perform other tasks in France that also aided the Nazi effort. No one called them Nazis.
The basic question is does one lose his or her identity if forced by an invading power to work for it? When the United States invaded Panama or Iraq or Vietnam it had people work for it. Did they become Americans. When the Japanese during WWII invaded the Philippines did the American prisoners they forced to work at the end of a barrel of a gun become Japanese.
If not, how was it that Jakiw Palif became a Nazi? He neither joined the Nazi party or had a choice in what he would do if he wanted to stay alive.
It is said he worked as a prison guard at a Nazi concentration camp where terrible atrocities took place. Did being forced to work there turn him into a Nazi? Palif denied that he had anything to do with the horrors. There is no proof otherwise. Does the mere fact that he was a prison guard turn him into a Nazi?
The Israeli Times in speaking of Palij said: “Even if his role was only to prevent their escape, that constitutes a war crime.” Does a man forced to do something against his will that involves no violence commit a war crime? What if he guarded bridges? What if he maintained the railroad tracks? Does it make a difference what he did for the Nazis if he had no choice?
Chuck Shumer added his praise to Trump’s action. He tweeted: “Nazi prison guards have no place in the USA. We must stand firmly against hate, anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its forms. Good riddance to this war criminal.” Was he a war criminal? If he was, did all Germans and those French who worked for the Germans become war criminals? Or did he become one because he came to America? Unlike the French and Germans he could not go back home because the Soviets overran his country?
“Thank you @ICEgov for apprehending an ACTUAL Nazi & deporting him. This would be a good occasion for radical Democrats to reconsider their ill-advised attacks [on] brave
@ICEgov officers,” tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. How brave must those ICE officers have been to grab a 95-year-old ill guy from his home? Was he an “ACTUAL Nazi?”
Jakiw Palif had been living in the U.S. since the late 1940s. In 1993 the U.S. group set up to look for Nazis found him. The following 25 years he was chased after by the U.S. government. He first had his citizenship stripped. He then had an order of deportation signed against him. He could not be deported until another country was willing to take him. Germany had refused to take him back because he wasn’t a German citizen. Trump put pressure on it. Finally because Trump was making it such a big deal it succumbed. He’s now back there and in a nursing home where he is a complete stranger.
I find little satisfaction in this happening. Those extolling this action as something significant depend on the ignorance of Americans to make their point. I find it strange that people so low down the line of responsibility for Nazi cruelties and atrocities are puffed up into what they were not. Sadly few now alive understand what happened in WWII to people captured by the Nazis and the Japanese. One who clearly doesn’t is Trump.