Ernest Peter Burger

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Ernst Peter Burger (September 1, 1906 — October 9, 1975) was a German-American who was a spy and saboteur for Germany during World War II. He was captured but escaped execution. He was deported to Germany in 1948.

Operation Pastorius[edit]

Born in Augsburg, Burger was a machinist by trade. Burger was a member of the Nazi party from the age of 17.[1] Burger immigrated to America in 1927 and became a U.S. citizen in 1933.[2] He had lived in the United States for some years, even serving in the National Guard. During the Depression, Burger returned to Germany, he rejoined the Nazi Party and became an aide-de-camp to Ernst Roehm, the chief of the Nazi storm troopers. Later, he wrote a paper critical of the Gestapo—a move that earned him seventeen months in a concentration camp.[3]Despite his history as a survivor of a Nazi internment camp and harassment of his wife by Nazi party members, Burger was recruited by the Abwehr, Nazi Germany's intelligence organization. He took part in Operation Pastorius, a plan by which eight German saboteurs were to be transported by U-Boat to the United States. Burger and the others landed with the intention of damaging United States economic targets.[4]

Apprehension and trial[edit]

George John Dasch, another saboteur, almost immediately lost his nerve and betrayed his comrades. He surrendered and told the FBI of Burger's location. FBI agents followed Burger to two other saboteurs, before arresting him. When all eight agents had been apprehended, the saboteurs were tried and convicted of treason and espionage. All were sentenced to execution by electrocution; however, Burger's sentence was commuted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to life in prison and Dasch's to thirty years because of their cooperation.[5]

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman granted executive clemency to Dasch and Burger on the condition that they be deported to the American Zone of occupied Germany. They were not welcomed back in Germany, as they were regarded as traitors who had caused the death of their comrades.[6] Although they had been promised pardons by Hoover in exchange for their cooperation, both men died without ever receiving them.

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