In 2003, the Justice Department revealed that Jakiw Palij, a Polish immigrant who had lived in New York for more than 50 years, was a former Nazi guard and began efforts to deport him. ''Let them come and get me," Palij told the New York Times, ''I'm not running. What will they do? Shoot me? Put me in the electric chair? Where are they going to deport me to? What country is going to take an 80-year-old man in poor health?'' As it turns out, Palij's prediction that other nations wouldn't be eager to take in an elderly ex-Nazi was right. The now 91-year-old Palij is still living in his house in Jackson Heights, despite the routine protests outside his home over the last decade. During another rally on Sunday morning, Palij told the New York Post, "I am starting to get used to it."
Palij was stripped of his American citizenship for falsely claiming in the fifties that he worked on a farm and in a German factory during the war. Federal officials allege that as a guard at an SS slave labor camp in Poland he prevented prisoners from escaping and ''directly contributed to their eventual slaughter.'' Palij has insisted all along that he never wore a Nazi uniform and was forced into service by the German army as a teenager. "If you tried to run away, they take your family and shoot all of them," he said, "I am not SS. I have nothing to do with SS."
Nevertheless, Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose parents are Holocaust survivors, is keeping up the fight to have Palij deported. "He is responsible for the murder of at least 6,000 Jews at a notorious Nazi camp," Hikind said at Sunday's rally. "He lives in our community. That is unacceptable." The protesters, including more than 100 students bussed in from Rambam Mesivta, a Jewish high school on Long Island, chanted phrases like "put him on a boat" and "kick him out."
While Palij says he's grown accustomed to the demonstrations, they're still bothering several of his neighbors. "Every year, they come and scare my children," Juan Azzaro told the Post. "Look at them, up on the old man’s stoop, pounding on his door! Is this legal?" The paper made its stance on the matter clear, quipping that the neighbors "showed more sympathy for the Nazi next door than, apparently, the memory of millions of dead Jews."