NEW YORK (JTA) — Dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and SS guards collected millions of dollars in Social Security payments after being forced out of the United States, an investigation by The Associated Press found.
The payments were made possible by a legal loophole that gave the U.S. Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the U.S. If they agreed to go, or fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal U.S. government records, AP reported Monday following a two-year probe.
The deals allowed the Justice Department’s former Nazi-hunting unit, the Office of Special Investigations, to avoid lengthy deportation hearings, as well as increase the number of Nazis it expelled from the United States.
The Justice Department denied using Social Security payments as a tool for removing Nazi suspects. But since 1979, at least 38 of 66 suspects removed from the country kept their Social Security benefits, the AP analysis found.
There are at least four living beneficiaries, including Jakob Denzinger, a former guard at Aushchwitz. Denzinger, 90, lives in Croatia, where he receives approximately $1,500 a month in Social Security payments.
Other beneficiaries include armed SS troops who guarded the network of Nazi camps where millions of Jews perished; a rocket scientist who used 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.
The AP investigation featured interviews, research and analysis of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and other sources.