95-Year old Nazi Deported: The Debate


Sasha Roter, Staff Writer

With debates ranging from the validity of Covid vaccinations to the justice of George Floyd, often news coverage of less pressing issues are buried under countless articles retelling similar tales of strife and advocating for justice for the common man. Americans can exhaust themselves racing through endless news articles for the gist of an event that occurred merely a fortnight past. Past. The Past. With floods of new information and events, it can be difficult for one to grasp the full concept of an event that occurred not one or two days, nor a week, but decades and centuries ago in the span of history. But one must not worry about those ancient fragments of time- those strips of history irrelevant to the problems of the modern day, an average news-reader may assert, shrugging their shoulders in nonchalance as they hold the newest national newspaper. However, one must always tread lightly when regarding past events, as they may once again appear unwanted and unsought within the article titles so rampant in today’s world.


The Holocaust was one of the most catastrophic and tragic events of world history, marking the murder of six million Jews and millions more of “undesirable” origin or physicality, of whom forcibly sentenced to the fires of Nazi-ridden camps. The end of World War II introduced the Nuremberg Trials, of which Nazi leaders were tried and convicted of crimes resulting in a prison sentence or execution. Seeing as justice was commenced, the last of these trials concluded within the mid-twentieth century, remaining a mere unpleasant memory for those who followed these convictions. However, the next generation of the modern era were able to witness the displeasure of one final Nazi trial with the recent hearing of 95-year-old Tennessee resident Frederick Karl Berger, who was discovered to have been a Nazi guard before his arrival to the U.S in July 20, 1959. After a two-day trial, Berger was found deport-able under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act and shipped back to Germany, his birthplace. 

The Debate: 

Should Berger have been deported for an act committed over half a century ago? Some say yes, believing justice shall prevail no matter the amount of time that has passed between the offense and defendant’s trial. The actions of the Nazis were cruel and the consequences of which, tragic, to not only the victims, but the world. The losses that stemmed from the Holocaust remain strained in the blood of every Jewish person today, and although it has made the population more resilient, it has succeeded in inciting the constant fear of this victimized mass. Being a part of the committee, therefore, that planned the most disastrous party in world history, is most definitely a true and convicting crime, despite Berger’s “fragile” age. 

The agreement that the verdict of this case was necessary is common for the obvious purposes of the offender belonging to a party of whose members have wreaked so much destruction and chaos through their unmatched cruelty. This point of argument is one many are already aware of- the cruelty of the concentration camps, the merciless rage of the resentful Nazi officers. It is one that, although absolutely considered and argued upon in this case, was not a point of controversy within the court- as facts remain facts even if buried under decades of passed time. However, in regards to these facts, were the actions of Frederick Karl Berger forced or voluntary? Nazi Germany illustrates the dictionary-definition for a dictatorship, with every aspect of life under the censorship of the ruling Nazi party, including youth programs. Hitler Youth was an organization surrounding the military training of young boys within their childhood to teenage years in an effort to shape them into future Nazi guards and generals. Being a teenage boy impressed into this anti-Semetic, Nazi-ridden culture at a young age, as Berger claimed to be nineteen when a guard, compromised his and many minds of German youth. That was a point of devil’s advocate, and therefore it is debated whether the forcible impression of youth was a point to consider in this trial. Other arguments against the deportation of Berger both surround his age and the reputation of the United States.

“After 75 years, this is ridiculous. I cannot believe it. I cannot understand how this can happen in a country like this. You’re forcing me out of my home.” – Berger

One of the most liberal countries in the world, the United States has a reputation of being a modern, peaceful system of liberty and justice. With this “land of the free” slogan in mind, was America too rash in its decision to convict Berger? Was his conviction merely for the headlines and reinforcement of the U.S as a strict, Nazi-resenting nation? This is another area of common debate circulating this trial- whether the intentions of the court were focused primarily on the purest reason of justice, or the record of the U.S as a Holocaust-empathizing nation. Although it can be assumed that this trial was conducted and concluded under fair judicial sanction, a case so publicized must have considered the outside reaction to anything other than a deportation statement for Berger. 

Can it be argued that expelling people from our country is un-American? The nation of which our Statue of Liberty invites all “huddled masses yearning to breathe free?” Although it can be deduced through the history of the United States that the exclusion of groups of people is a common theme- from the Colombian Era Native Americans to WWII Japanese internment camps- deportation is a rare course of order within the American judicial system. However, is this deportation necessary due to Berger’s prevailing situation- as his history with Nazism may leave no other consequence fulfilling for the severity of this trial- and if so, does it go against everything stood for by the American government if conducted due to probable cause?

Another significant area of debate within this trial surrounds Berger’s age. Although the wrinkled complexion and wearied posture accompanied with the process of aging may change drastically, this is not exactly true for ideology. It can be argued he withholds the same beliefs he did at the ripe age of nineteen- that time should not be a factor within this trial surrounding the actions the defendant committed. Some may allow him the luxury of the doubt, an opportunity to display a change in sentiment over the majority of his life. Yet, if he has been enlightened in the arguably liberal country of which he rested, is there any way to prove that change in ideology? This can be compared to proving an individual felt an emotion on any given day. Why were you happy? What made you happy? What actions did you participate in due to this glee? Unless actively involved within a Jewish community, Berger’s change of mindset, if any, could not have been proven before the court of law. Perhaps verdict aspects regarded significantly due to his age would surround his physical inability to harm another, as the lack of muscle strength that comes with age, along with the little time Berger biologically has, may have been contributing factors in the decision to avoid his prison sentence.  

Although more than half a century past the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-1946, our generation was offered the opportunity to witness one final Nazi trial. The trial of Frederick Karl Berger, a senior citizen ruled to be deported back to Germany, will remain a debate in the eyes of many onlookers, the final verdict of his trial pleasing most but being regarded as unnecessary in the viewpoint of others. However, in considering this trial, the full extent of the Holocaust must also be examined with care and cordial, ignorant not of the millions lost within that horrid tragedy. Every Yom Hashoah, Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jewish families receive a candle. On the side of the tin surrounding it, it is written:


                           והגבורה לזכור ולא לשכו


                                                       Remember, never forget. 


It is unknown how the sentiments of Berger today compare with those decades ago. However, we must not overlook the extent of his crime- the cruelty enforced, the sacrifices made, and the victims never forgotten.