WASHINGTON (Nov. 24)
A bill was introduced last Friday in Congress to establish a special commission that would investigate U.S. assistance to Nazis and Nazi collaborators following World War II.
Introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D. Ma.) at a press conference, the bill charges the proposed commission with finding out how many Nazi war criminals or collaborators came to this country after the war with the knowledge or help of U.S. officials, and the extent to which the officials were aware of the Nazi backgrounds of the new immigrants.
It would also investigate the nature and extent of deception and law-breaking said to have been committed by U.S. intelligence agency officials in an effort to bring former Nazis and collaborators to this country, and more recently, in an alleged attempt to cover up the entire affair.
CALL FOR SPECIAL UNIT FOLLOWS GAO REPORT
The call for an independent commission follows the completion by the General Accounting Office (GAO) of its second investigation into the question of U.S. intelligence involvement in bringing former Nazis and collaborators into the country.
The report– the second produced by the same office over a seven-year period–was immediately criticized in a memo by Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman as “painfully limited and inadequate,” and her criticism was endorsed by numerous Jewish groups.
In a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and International Law last month, Frank said he had “never been more disappointed” with a GAO work product.
The criticism has focussed on what Holtzman and others have called the GAO’s sloppy methodology, which focussed on selected cases of individuals who immigrated here after the war, rather than on examining the broader nature and extent of the role which intelligence officials may have played in bringing former Nazis to the country.
Although the authors of the study said they had found cases of active involvement and deception on the part of agency officials, they found no evidence of a broad program to recruit former Nazis for intelligence purposes.
PRESIDENT TO APPOINT COMMISSION
The proposed seven-member commission would be appointed by the President, in part on the basis of nominations from the House and Senate, and would enjoy special subpoena powers giving it access to evidence and testimony from the various intelligence agencies.
Holtzman and others have claimed that earlier investigations have failed because they were based on evidence extended to the investigators by the very agencies which were the subject of the investigation. Members of those agencies, the critics say, have covered up the incriminating evidence in order to avoid embarrassment to former officials and the bureaus they represented.
At the press conference Friday, Frank said that resistance in the Departments of State, Justice and Defense to a full investigation is “a testament to the strength of the bureaucratic protective reflex.” He protested that potentially helpful material remains classified “to cover up embarrassment, for reasons that have nothing to do with security.”
In a prepared statement, Holtzman said that only an independent commission could avoid the shortcomings of previous investigations. The GAO’s first study found no evidence of government assistance to former Nazis.
“No existing government institution is equipped to do the job. The GAO has tried and failed; Congress cannot do it; no executive departmetn should, since past executive branch practices are the subject of the inquiry,” said Holtzman, who was active during her time in the House of Representatives in efforts to deport Nazi war criminals from this country.
Frank said he expected the Judiciary Committee to consider his new bill–co-sponsored by Stephen Solarz (D. NY) and Peter Rodino (D. NJ), chairman of the Subcommittee on Imigration, Refugees and International Law — sometime this spring.
In a recent telephone interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Frank said he expected the bill to meet resistance in Congress from those who seek to avoid embarrassing findings. But Holtzman told the JTA Friday that she suspected “the only resistance would be one of inertia.” Once the bill gets moving it is unlikely that legislators will openly oppose it, she said.