To commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day, students from a Long Island, New York, yeshiva rallied in front of a Nazi concentration camp guard’s home on Monday.
The students traveled from Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence to the Queens home of Jakiw Palij, 92. According to the New York Daily News, the nonagenarian is the last known former Nazi camp guard living in the United States.
The New York Times reported in 2003 that Palij lived most of his life without anyone knowing his role in the Holocaust. Justice Department officials accused him of working at the Treblinka death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943—the year that approximately 6,000 Jews were killed there and buried in pits.
”They came and took me when I was 18,” Palij told the New York Times.
We knew they would kill me and my family if I refused. I did it to save their lives, and I never even wore a Nazi uniform. They made us wear gray guards’ uniforms and had us guarding bridges and rivers.
Palij reportedly immigrated to the United States as a war refugee in 1949. Though a federal judge ordered his deportation in 2004, the three European countries he could be sent to declined to take him. As a result, it’s likely that the 92-year-old will die in the States, according to CNN.
The ex-Nazi told the New York Post in 2013 that he’s “used to” demonstrators gathering in front of his home. Palij did not appear to be home during Monday’s protest.
Speaking with the Daily News, Rambam Mesivta dean Rabbi Zev Friedman pushed back against claims that they should leave Palij alone due to his advanced age:
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.