A Jackson Heights woman, who is running for Assembly, wants to know why a Nazi remains living in Queens while thousands of immigrants are being deported each year.
She also wants to know why nobody seems to care.
Talea Wufka held a protest last Saturday on Northern Boulevard across the street from the residence of Jakiw Palij, a former concentration camp guard. In preparation for the event, Wufka, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, sent emails to local synagogues. She emailed local politicians. She even emailed Aaron Schlossberg, hoping that the disgraced lawyer could use this protest as a forum to apologize for racist comments he made last week.
Instead, the only person who joined Wufka on Saturday afternoon in the rain was Paul Jackson, the treasurer for her primary campaign against Assemblyman Jeff Aubry (D-Corona) in District 35.
“I was devastated,” Wufka said. “And I was devastated for the fact because it seems like the Holocaust is really being forgotten.”
Wufka arrived at Northern Boulevard and 89th Street a few minutes before the event’s 2 p.m. start time. There were a few people walking by, although heavy rain made for fairly quiet streets. There was nobody holding any signs of protest. She asked one man standing on the corner if he was there for the immigration protest. He told her he wasn’t. Wufka walked down the block with her sign, and was joined several minutes later by Jackson.
Some people walking by stopped to read her handwritten sign. Some did not. A few people had short talks with her, but none that lasted longer than a minute and a half. There was a cop car with several police officers in the street, as Wufka had to stay across the street from Palij’s house. After an uneventful hour, the cops told Wufka the allotted time was up.
“I was also disappointed because I felt that every single politician is using immigration as their platform,” Wufka said. “And this was the perfect argument.”
Palij came to the United States in 1949, and claimed that he had worked on his father’s farm in Poland during World War II. He was actually a guard at the Trawniki concentration camp. According to Wufka, Palij’s cover was blown when a Holocaust survivor recognized him in the street. Turns out a Nazi war criminal had been living in plain sight.
“[Wufka] showed me the picture of him,” Jackson said. “I used to see him. I never knew who he was.”
In the early 2000s, Palij was stripped of his U.S. citizenship and in 2005 an order was issued to have him deported. Germany, Poland and Ukraine all refused to take him. So, the 94-year-old Palij continues to live in Queens.
“Everyone is being deported but the war criminal gets to stay,” Wufka said.
Previous protests on the anniversary of Kristallnacht have seen sizable crowds, including one last November, which saw over 150 members of Rambam Mesvita, a Long Island Jewish high school, holding signs from behind a barricade across the street from Palij’s house. No barricades were needed on Saturday.
Covering several subjects, Wufka mentioned the riots in Charlottesville last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deporting over 200,000 people in 2017, and the wall on the Mexican border. And she told the story of how she entered a Queens barbershop where a barber was watching Holocaust footage on TV, then telling her that the Holocaust was a hoax.
For the protest, Wufka’s sign included the line “If the Immigrants have to Go — So Does the War Criminal.”
“It’s not fair,” Wufka said. “It’s wrong, and we know it’s wrong.”