(JTA) — Nazi war criminals should not be receiving Social Security benefits, a White House spokesman said.
Deputy press secretary Eric Schultz made his comments Monday in response to an investigation by The Associated Press that found that dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and SS guards collected millions of dollars after being forced out of the United States.
“Our position is we don’t believe these individuals should be getting these benefits,” Schultz said at an informal news briefing at the White House. “As the Justice Department has said, they have worked aggressively to pursue Nazi criminals with the aim of ensuring they’re brought to justice. The Social Security Administration and the Department of Justice have to work together within the confines of the law to cut off these benefits for these criminals.”
Schultz also said that the Justice Department has brought more than 100 Nazi criminals to justice.
The Social Security payments were made possible by a legal loophole that gave the 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 benefits, according to interviews and internal U.S. government records, AP reported Monday following a two-year probe.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) on Monday sent letters to the Inspectors General of the Social Security Administration and the Department of Justice demanding that the agencies initiate investigations into the receipt of Social Security benefits by suspected Nazi war criminals.
“It is deeply concerning that these individuals continued to receive Social Security benefits even after the Justice Department identified them as Nazi war criminals,” said Maloney, a co-author of the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. “The Office of Special Investigations had a mandate to remove these individuals from the United States, and the law is very explicit in saying that those who participated in the Nazi persecutions or genocide should have their benefits terminated upon their removal. In some cases that did not happen.”
There are at least four living beneficiaries, including Jakob Denzinger, a former guard at Auschwitz. Denzinger, 90, lives in Croatia, where he receives approximately $1,500 a month in Social Security payments.
The AP investigation featured interviews, research and analysis of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and other sources.