For almost seven decades, former Nazi labor camp guard Jakiw Palij lived quietly in the U.S.
But then federal agents swooped into his home in Jackson Heights, Queens and deported the frail, 95-year-old to Germany.
"This man participated in the murder of innocent men, women and children and he has been breathing the air of our country and our city and today finally he is being thrown out of the country, which is an amazing moment," said Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn), who has long campaigned for Palij’s deportation.
Palij was an armed guard at the Trawniki camp in occupied Poland during World War II, where 6,000 Jewish prisoners were shot to death on one day in 1943, one of the largest mass killings of the Holocaust.
Palij immigrated to the US in 1949, lying about what he did during the war, and became a U.S. citizen eight years later.
A judge ordered his deportation in 2004, but he remained in Queens, because no country would accept him. He was born in what was once Poland, but is now Ukraine.
"Everybody thought it was terrible having somebody like that living in our neighborhood," one neighbor said Tuesday.
Politicians and Jewish activists though kept pushing for deportation - including holding protests outside the former guard’s home on 89th Street.
On Monday, agents with the embattled U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed him on a stretcher, and placed him on a chartered flight to Dusseldorf.
Some neighbors in the racially diverse community say it was about time.
"I think good riddance is probably the way to look at it. We've been trying to get him out since 2004, when the official order came through for deportation. But there were efforts to get rid of him way before that,” said neighbor Shari Brill
So why is this happening now? Efforts to deport Palij appear to have intensified under President Trump.
The U.S. ambassador to Germany says Trump made it clear he wanted the former guard's deportation, and the German government finally agreed to take him, even though Palij isn't German.
"He is 95, he is probably going to die sometime soon, he's little bit sickly and so we wanted to make sure that he didn't die in peace and comfort in the United States," said Richard Grenell, the ambassador.
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Palij's deportation is the first for a Nazi war crimes suspect since Germany agreed in 2009 to take John Demjanjuk, a retired Ohio autoworker who was accused of serving as a Nazi guard. He was convicted in 2011 of being an accessory to more than 28,000 killings and died 10 months later, at age 91, with his appeal pending.
Palij, whose full name is pronounced Yah-keev PAH'-lee, entered the U.S. in 1949 under the Displaced Persons Act, a law meant to help refugees from post-war Europe. He told immigration officials that he worked during the war in a woodshop and farm in Nazi-occupied Poland, as well as at another farm in Germany and finally in a German upholstery factory. Palij said he never served in the military.
In reality, officials say, he played an essential role in the Nazi program to exterminate Jews as an armed guard at Trawniki. According to a Justice Department complaint, Palij served in a unit that "committed atrocities against Polish civilians and others" and then in the notorious SS Streibel Battalion, "a unit whose function was to round up and guard thousands of Polish civilian forced laborers."
After the war, Palij maintained friendships with other Nazi guards who the government says came to the U.S. under similar false pretenses.
The Justice Department's special Nazi-hunting unit started piecing together Palij's past after a fellow Trawniki guard identified him to Canadian authorities in 1989. Investigators asked Russia and other countries for records on Palij beginning in 1990 and first confronted him in 1993.
It wasn't until after a second interview in 2001 that he signed a document acknowledging he had been a guard at Trawniki and a member of the Streibel Battalion. Palij suggested at one point during that interview that he was threatened with death if he refused to work as a guard, saying, "If you don't show up, boom-boom."
Palij's wife is no longer alive and it is not known what will happen to him n Germany, but what is clear is that there are no more known Nazi war crimes suspects in the U.S.
-This report includes material from The Associates Press