By Larry Gordon
He is finally gone, deported from the United States to Germany for serving as a Nazi camp guard who oversaw the murder of 6,000 Jews in one day at a death camp in Poland during World War II. If you are familiar with the name Jakiw Palij, then it is because of a long series of efforts by yeshiva high school students who, along with their rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Zev Friedman, never missed an opportunity to rally and protest in front of the war criminal’s Queens home.
The yeshiva is Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence, with a 200-pupil student body steeped in Torah, academia, and activism. And chief on their list of projects frequently in the news is a determination to see justice exacted and have Mr. Palij forcibly removed from New York and sent on his way.
That is what has happened after 15 years of delays. One of the complications over these years was the fact that Palij was a Polish national that the U.S. wanted sent back to Germany, Rabbi Friedman said. The rabbi points out that the prime reason for the delay in the deportation process was Germany’s insistence that it was not responsible for him because he was not a German citizen.
When the high school students would demonstrate outside the German UN offices in New York, they would chant, “Who trained him? Germany! Who gave him the uniform? Germany! Who taught him to murder? Germany!”
At the end of this very long and frustrating process, Germany had no choice but to take Palij to breathe his last breaths in Germany.
Now that the Nazi war criminal is out of New York and the U.S. after a long, frustrating, and even painful delay, the Rambam Mesivta boys are owed a debt of gratitude. They were focused and determined and refused to let it go. They could not rest or let us relax until Jakiw Palij was gone. Though he is 95 years old, we have never forgotten his past. Now that he is gone from our midst, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.