As the World War II generation disappears, the era remains a significant chapter in American history that, unfortunately, most millenials pay little attention to, even after reading history text books.
Nevertheless, the period maintains a conspicuous place in our culture, particularly in books and film. Just last week, a new WWII film, “Fury,” starring Brad Pitt, was released to modest critical acclaim and became the weekend’s No. 1 box-office hit. (Younger moviegoers more than likely went more for the action and violence than any historical motive.)
Another WWII related-event made headlines this week. An Associated Press investigation disclosed details that dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and members of SS (Schutzstaffel) units, who lived in the U.S. after the war were forced to leave and granted what eventually totaled millions in Social Security payments. Since not many countries were willing to accept them through deportation, and few pressed charges for their alleged crimes that would have mandated extradition, the Justice Department encouraged them to leave voluntarily, with the assurance that allowed them to continue to receive the benefits, which reportedly totaled in the millions of dollars over the years, after relocating overseas.
The news organization’s report surfaced after more than two years of interviews, research and analysis of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and other sources.
For decades, it’s been commonly — albeit reluctantly — acknowledged that former German scientists helped the U.S. develop the Atom bomb that ended World War II. They also contributed significantly to the nation’s space program, but until this particular inquiry it was not commonly known that some of those former enemies received for Social Security benefits. The AP report noted that since 1979, at least 38 of 66 suspected Nazis, who deliberately lied in order to gain entry into the U.S., and received benefits from the Social Security Administration after they left or were deported.
According to the AP, the taxpayer-funded payments transpired as the result of an authorized loophole that allowed the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigation (OSI) to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the U.S. If they consented, or fled before being deported, they continued to receive monthly Social Security payments. Recipients included SS troops deployed at concentration camps where millions perished or suffered torture and brutal treatment, a rocket scientist who used slave labor to advance his research, and a Nazi collaborator who engineered the arrest and execution of thousands of Jews in Poland.
The AP account noted that legislation to close the loophole failed in 1999, due to opposition from the OSI. Since then, at least ten Nazi suspects kept receiving benefits. The Social Security Administration confirmed payments to seven who are deceased, one living suspect and two others, who met conditions to allow them to keep their benefits. At least four of 66 suspects are reportedly living in Europe and continue to receive Social Security payments.
Among those named in the AP investigation and paid benefits after deportation were:
· Jakob Denzinger, who served in a Death's Head Unit in 1942;
· Martin Hartmann, an SS volunteer;
- Martin Bartesch, a guard at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria;
- Arthur Rudolph, accused of using slave labor at a Nazi rocket factory;
- John Avdzej was a Nazi-installed regional mayor in occupied Belorussia;
- Wasyl Lytwyn served in a Nazi SS unit in the Warsaw Ghetto;
- Peter Mueller was a Nazi SS guard.
All but Denzinger and Hartmann, who reportedly still receive benefits, are dead.
Because their crimes were committed outside the U.S. and almost always against non-Americans, Nazi suspects could not be tried in U.S. courts. As a result, the only other option was to prove they lied to immigration authorities about their wartime service, strip them of their |American citizenships through a protracted process, and then attempt to either deport or extradite them.
But few countries were willing to accept them through deportation, or never pressed charges that would have forced expulsion.
To expedite obstacles, the Justice Department encouraged them to leave voluntarily and avoid the deportation route, but promised them they would still continue to receive retirement benefits earned while employed in the U.S. Apparently, government officials assumed these Nazis would be prosecuted for their suspected crimes in their countries of origin. But, that never happened.
Whatever reasons the government had when the process was created, today it seems irresponsible and reprehensible and should be invalidated without delay. With Social Security targeted for reform by some in Congress, perhaps before they tinker with benefits lawfully earned by hard-working Americans, they must stop paying former enemies who likely had a hand in the unparalleled extermination of millions.
After widespread media reports cited the AP story, New York representative Carolyn Maloney on Monday called the benefits “a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.” In addition to demanding the White House investigate the matter, Maloney introduced legislation that would put an end to the Social Security payments.
The Social Security Administration has yet to comment and has refused to disclose the total number of Nazi suspects who received benefits and the dollar amounts.
It is disgraceful and morally wrong that former SS officers were ever granted SS (Social Security) benefits. That’s keeping your enemies WAY too close.
It’s time for our government to terminate any further allotment of funds to such loathsome men, which was clearly an inexcusable tactic from the moment they dishonestly stepped foot on our shores.