On Saturday, a plane brought Mr. Berger back to Germany, where he remains a citizen, the Justice Department said. German officials have indicated that he will not face additional prosecution there. Mr. Berger’s lawyer, Hugh B. Ward Jr., said that his client was “safe, sound, free” at an assisted-living center in Germany.
Since the Justice Department began a program in 1979 to track down and deport former Nazis, it has won 109 cases, the department said. But “this may be the last U.S. Nazi case,” said Eli M. Rosenbaum, a senior official at the department’s Human Rights and Special Prosecution unit, who was among those who tried the case against Mr. Berger.
“There’s hardly anyone left,” Mr. Rosenbaum said. “The vast majority of the perpetrators have died.”
Mr. Berger’s case was unique because it was the only one in the history of the Justice Department’s Nazi prosecution program in which there were no known surviving victims available to testify, Mr. Rosenbaum said. German forces also destroyed the records from Meppen when they abandoned the camp in 1945, he said, so prosecutors relied on documents found elsewhere.
A crucial piece of evidence tying Mr. Berger to his Nazi past came from SS cards that identified guards in the Neuengamme camps, which were discovered in 1950 in a German ship that had been sunk by the Allies five years earlier.
Mr. Rosenbaum said it was not clear how the cards were not destroyed after years underwater. After the ship was raised from the Baltic Sea, many of the cards were illegible and some were only partly legible. Those that could be read were transcribed and recorded. One of the cards identified Mr. Berger.
“It was needle-in-a-haystack stuff, to put it mildly,” Mr. Rosenbaum said.
Mr. Berger, he said, had enlisted in the German military in 1943 and had been assigned by the SS to guard the Meppen camp. He moved to the United States in 1959, and he had lived quietly in a ranch house on a cul-de-sac in Oak Ridge, Tenn., about 25 miles west of Knoxville.