Justice Delayed or Denied?


Ashlyn Athey

The Simpsonville City Hall is a landmark in our community that symbolizes the pursuit of justice (Photo Courtesy of Ashlyn Athey).

On Tuesday, August 21st, the last known Nazi collaborator residing within the United States was deported to Germany by air ambulance. Jakiw Palij, now 95 years old, was born in Poland and joined the Nazis as a camp guard when he was 18. After World War II ended, Palij lied on his visa application to the United States, claiming he was working on a farm and in a German factory instead of the Trawniki labor camp, where he worked as a guard. In a 2003 interview, Palij told a reporter that he was forced to join the Nazis in order to save his family’s lives and never directly caused any of the atrocities in the Holocaust.

“[Even though Palij said he was trying to save his family], it should not exempt him from judgement, but people should be more forgiving. We have a justice system to bring criminals forward and pay for their crime,” said sophomore Aiden Williams.

Perhaps Palij received the judgement he immigrated to America to avoid, and finally delayed justice had been carried through.

“[Palij received] delayed justice because he is being held accountable [for his crimes]. You will never be able to rid the Holocaust from people’s minds. Hopefully, bringing justice to these people will give survivors a greater sense of closure,” said social studies teacher Nick Pintz.

Some believe that Palij’s removal from the United States will be beneficial to people who were harmed by the Holocaust.

“If you committed a crime, you should pay for it. It’s good to get [Palij] out of here for the people that lost families in the Holocaust,” said sophomore Corey Golec.

However, some view this case as justice denied to Jakiw Palij, due to his age and occupation in the Nazi Party.

“I have a problem throwing a ninety year old man in jail, especially someone who was not actively in the selection process and killing people. I wonder what benefit it is to try a ninety year old man. I’m not sure what that accomplishes. . .I don’t know if we’ll ever have a correct answer on whether or not this was right,” said social studies teacher Gene Kennedy.

Palij’s deportation on Tuesday closed a legal battle that has been pending for 14 long years.

“I feel like [America’s] purpose behind [Palij’s deportation] was mainly to show a level of ‘strength’ and an intolerance for the unethical actions that took place during World War II. However, one has to consider if this is actually benefiting anyone or if it is just distressing a man on his deathbed. Even though Mr. Palij was clearly part of a malicious and inhumane system, his plight of choosing between the execution of his family and joining this regime must still exist in our minds,” said senior Eva Purcell.

On the other hand, others believe America deported Palij for a different reason.

“I think [America] still has that lingering guilt [from World War II]. We made it very hard for Jews to enter America before World War II. Some people had close calls. [For example], Trudy Heller’s family was from Austria and made their way to Belgium. They bought tickets to the only place that would take them–Peru. However, the Peruvian government changed their mind and decided they were not going to take Jewish people. News came back that the ship they were supposed to go on sunk with the people on it. Right before World War II started, her family got sponsored by a Greenville synagogue [to come to America],” said Kennedy.

Even though some Jews and other ethnic minorities narrowly escaped persecution from the Nazis, countless others still suffered at their hands, and many believe there are moral debts to be paid.

“[For] anyone that has been harmed through injustice, especially innocent children who cannot defend themselves, there [should be] some consequence that someone must endure. There should be justice for crimes, no matter how much time has passed [from the time the crime was committed],” said English teacher Amanda Vernon.

Whether the deportation of a former Nazi camp guard at age 95 was just or unjust in the eyes of the American public, perhaps all of us can learn from what James Madison said in the Federalist No. 51.

“[Justice] ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.”