The Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed Berger's appeal Thursday, on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the start of the Nuremberg trials of Nazi soldiers and officials.
The board upheld the February decision made by U.S. Immigration Court Judge Rebecca Holt in Memphis. Holt based her decision on the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act.
“Berger was an active participant in one of the darkest chapters in human history. He attempted to shed his nefarious past to come to America and start anew, but thanks to the dedication of those at the Department of Justice and Homeland Security Investigations, the truth was revealed,” said Louis Rodi, a deputy assistant director with a division of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that oversees prosecutions of human rights violators and war crime criminals.
Berger, who spoke to The Washington Post in March, expressed disbelief at the possibility of deportation, saying he was only 19 years old at the time, and was ordered to guard the concentration camp based near Meppen, Germany.
His time at Neuengamme was short, Berger said, and he did not carry a weapon.
“After 75 years, this is ridiculous. I cannot believe it,” he said. “I cannot understand how this can happen in a country like this. You’re forcing me out of my home," told The Post. His last known residence is located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
According to a release from the U.S.Department of Justice, Berger admitted that he did not request a transfer from the Neuengamme system. He continues to receive a pension from Germany, for labor that includes "wartime services."
The rejection of Berger's appeal does not necessarily end Berger's bid to remain in the U.S. He could still appeal the board's decision in federal circuit court.
His attorney, Hugh Ward, did not immediately return an inquiry from The Commercial Appeal.
According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia, the SS incarcerated between 104,000 and 106,000 prisoners in the Neuengamme system, which consisted of 80 subcamps throughout northern and central Germany between 1942 and 1945.
Within the system, SS guards enforced brutal working conditions, and inhumane working conditions. Thousands of prisoners, mostly Soviets, Poles, French, German, and Dutch, were arbitrarily murdered by SS guards when they could no longer perform labor, according to the encyclopedia.
Imprisonment of Jews was relatively small at first, but by the end of World War II, some 13,000 Jews were systemically murdered in the Neuengamme camp system. Tens of thousands of prisoners, both Jews and non-Jewish Europeans, were murdered in the camp system throughout the war.
Berger guarded the captives while they worked and back to their barracks at night, according to a February release from Justice Department.
At the close of World War II, as Allied forces closed in on German troops, Berger was one of the SS guards overseeing the evacuation of the main Neuengamme camps, as Nazis scrambled to cover evidence of mass imprisonment and genocide.
About 70 prisoners were murdered during the evacuation under his watch, the Justice Department said.
Eli Rosenbaum, a veteran prosecutor with the Justice Department, told The New York Times in February that Berger served in the German Navy. He said the 94-year-old Berger was tied to the operation at the camp when a critical piece of evidence — an index card with his personnel information — was recovered from the wreckage of the Thielbek, one of three German ships carrying prisoners that was bombed by British forces, who were unaware prisoners of war were aboard the ships.
An acting assistant attorney general with the Justice Department's Criminal Division, Brian Rabbitt, said, "Berger’s willing service as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp cannot be erased and will not be ignored."
It's not immediately clear if Berger will face prosecution in Germany, should he be deported.