GOSHAY: Better than he deserved

Staff Writer
Santa Rosa's Press Gazette

Friedrich Karl Berger has lived to be 94 years old, with 61 of them spent in the United States.

But an immigration judge recently ordered the deportation of Berger, a German who served as a Nazi concentration camp guard during World War II.

Berger has never denied working in the Neuengamme, a German “subcamp” where prisoners were forced to work outdoors in inhumane conditions, often till their death.

Among his war crimes was guarding prisoners during a forced, two-week evacuation march as British and Canadian forces were closing in on his camp.

Like many such people, he minimizes what he did amid claims that he, too, was a victim.

Berger, who moved to the U.S. in 1959, is indignant about his deportation, telling a Washington Post reporter, “After 75 years, this is ridiculous. I cannot believe it.”

I am indignant that Friedrich Berger has been allowed to live for 61 years in safety, privilege and comfort in the very country the Nazis tried to destroy.

No questions asked

I’m indignant that Berger, who moved to Oak Ridge, Tenn., in 1959 very likely fared much better than the black Americans who lived there in the 1950s. There were no “Germans only” water fountains in the Jim Crow south.

I’m indignant that men like my late grandfather and his friends, who served in segregated units in World War II, didn’t enjoy half of the social and economic opportunities Berger has, simply by virtue of his skin.

I’m indignant that Berger was able to go wherever he wanted, eat where he wanted, buy a house wherever he wanted and work wherever he wanted.

I’m indignant that American soldiers of color were granted no such choices. Their uniforms did not grant them access to equality and full citizenship. They couldn’t access the GI Bill, which was a post-service benefit. They couldn’t buy homes in neighborhoods built specifically for veteran families.

Yet, there’s a reason they’re called the Greatest Generation. They pressed forward, refusing to surrender their manhood, patriotism and love of country to others’ ignorance. To a man, they were proud of their service. They forged lives for themselves and their families, never once expressing regret for having served a country that would just as soon do without them.

They reserved their hope for better days in the lives of their kids and grandchildren. They all were better men than I would have been.

Because I’m a flawed human being, I’m indignant at the unfairness of life, which has allowed Berger 94 years when more than 600,000 GIs succumbed in their prime.

I’m indignant that Berger, who receives a pension from the German government for his military service, lived to comb gray hair, unlike the 1 million children who were systematically killed.

I’m indignant that someone like Friedrich Karl Berger helped himself to the American dream.

Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or On Twitter: @cgoshayREP