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Deported from US, former Nazi guard agrees to be questioned by Germany

A 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard deported from Tennessee has agreed to be questioned by German prosecutors as they re-examine whether there is enough evidence against him to bring charges, authorities say.

Friedrich Karl Berger arrived Saturday in Frankfurt on a special flight from the US after being ordered deported to his native Germany by a court in Memphis last year.

He was met by Hesse state police detectives at the airport and told them he would be willing to be questioned by investigators with a lawyer present, says Bernd Kolkmeier, spokesman for the Celle prosecutor’s office, which is handling the case.

Organizing counsel and ensuring they are up to speed on the facts will take time, however, so the earliest such an interview would take place would be next month, Kolkmeier says.

Friedrich Karl Berger in 1959 (US Department of Justice)

A US immigration judge ordered Berger deported a year ago after finding that his “willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place” constituted assistance in Nazi-sponsored persecution.

The court found that Berger, who had been living in the US since 1959, had served at a camp in Meppen, Germany, near the border with the Netherlands, which was a subcamp of the larger Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg.

It said during the winter of 1945, prisoners in Meppen were held in “atrocious” conditions and were exploited for outdoor forced labor, working “to the point of exhaustion and death.”

Berger admitted to American investigators that he served in Meppen as a guard for a few weeks near the end of the war but said he did not observe any abuse or killings. The Memphis court found, however, that Berger had helped guard prisoners during a forced evacuation that took nearly two weeks and claimed the lives of 70 people.

Celle prosecutors shelved their initial investigation of him in December, however, saying they had been unable to refute his account. They’re now having another look, with him back on German soil, Kolkmeier says.

“Nothing has changed except that he is now in Germany and we can talk with him,” Kolkmeier says. “We can personally question him, which is naturally different than reading a transcript.”

Kolkmeier would not say whether Berger still had family in Germany nor where he was residing.

Berger, who was born in 1925 in the tiny northern town of Bargen, was serving in the German Navy when he was assigned to guard prisoners in Meppen in 1945, according to the Neuengamme Memorial’s website.

He served between January 28, 1945 and April 4, 1945, as an auxiliary attached to the SS command of the camp, according to Celle prosecutors.

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