WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 130 suspected Nazi war criminals, SS guards and others who may have participated in the Third Reich’s atrocities during World War II collected $20.2 million in retirement benefits, according to the Social Security Administration’s inspector general.
In a report scheduled for public release next week and obtained by The Associated Press, the inspector general said nearly a quarter of the total, $5.7 million, went to individuals who were found to have played a role in the Nazi persecution and had been deported. More than $14 million was paid to people who weren’t deported but were alleged or found to have assisted the Nazis during a period in which millions of Jews perished in the Holocaust.
The report comes seven months after an AP investigation revealed benefits were paid to former Nazis after they were forced out of the United States. AP found that the Justice Department used a legal loophole to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the US in exchange for Social Security benefits. If they agreed to go voluntarily, or simply fled the country before being deported, they could keep their benefits.
Congress reacted swiftly by passing legislation to close the loophole and bar Nazi suspects from receiving benefits. President Barack Obama signed the measure into law late last year.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, requested the inspector general look into the scope of the payments following AP’s investigation.
“This report is another reminder that we must never forget the atrocities committed by the Nazis,” Maloney said Saturday in an emailed statement. “According to this report, 133 alleged and confirmed Nazis actively worked to conceal their true identities from our government and received millions of dollars in Social Security payments.”
The report doesn’t include the names of the former Nazis and is narrowly focused on how many Nazi suspects received benefits. It criticizes the Social Security Administration for improperly paying four beneficiaries $15,658 because it did not suspend the benefits in time.
The report includes a detailed breakdown of how the payments were distributed.
The Social Security Administration last year refused the AP’s request that it provide the total number of Nazi suspects who received benefits and the dollar amounts.
In October, Maloney, a high-ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the payments a “gross misuse of taxpayer dollars” and said she plans to introduce legislation to close the loophole.
Among those receiving Social Security benefits were SS troops who guarded the network of Nazi camps where millions of Jews perished, a rocket scientist accused of using slave laborers to advance his research in the Third Reich and a Nazi collaborator who engineered the arrest and execution of thousands of Jews in Poland.
Because Nazi war crimes were committed outside the US and almost always against non-Americans, Nazi suspects could not be tried in US courts. The only other legal option was to prove they lied to immigration authorities about what they did during the war, and then to attempt either deportation or extradition.
The deals that were reached instead allowed the Justice Department’s former Nazi-hunting unit, the Office of Special Investigations, to skirt lengthy deportation hearings and increase the number of Nazis it expelled from the US.
But internal US government records obtained by the AP reveal heated objections from the State Department to OSI’s practices. Social Security benefits became tools, US diplomatic officials said, to secure agreements in which Nazi suspects would accept the loss of citizenship and voluntarily leave the United States.