American Dream: Expelled Nazis Collected Millions in U.S. Social Security BenefitsPosted: October 19, 2014 | |
OSIJEK, Croatia (AP) — Former Auschwitz guard Jakob Denzinger lived the American dream.
His plastics company in the Rust Belt town of Akron, Ohio, thrived. By the late 1980s, he had acquired the trappings of success: a Cadillac DeVille and a Lincoln Town Car, a lakefront home, investments in oil and real estate.
Then the Nazi hunters showed up.
In 1989, as the U.S. government prepared to strip him of his citizenship, Denzinger packed a pair of suitcases and fled to Germany. Denzinger later settled in this pleasant town on the Drava River, where he lives comfortably, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.
He collects a Social Security payment of about $1,500 each month, nearly twice the take-home pay of an average Croatian worker.
Denzinger, 90, is among dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and SS guards who collected millions of dollars in Social Security payments after being forced out of the United States, an Associated Press investigation found.
The payments flowed through a legal loophole that has given the U.S. Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave. If they agreed to go, or simply fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal government records.
Like Denzinger, many lied about their Nazi pasts to get into the U.S. following World War II, and eventually became American citizens.
Among those who benefited:
—armed SS troops who guarded the Nazi network of camps where millions of Jews perished.
—an SS guard who took part in the brutal liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland that killed as many as 13,000 Jews.
—a Nazi collaborator who engineered the arrest and execution of thousands of Jews in Poland.
—a German rocket scientist accused of using slave labor to build the V-2 rocket that pummeled London. He later won NASA’s highest honor for helping to put a man on the moon.
The AP’s findings are the result of more than two years of interviews, research and analysis of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and other sources.
The Justice Department denied using Social Security payments as a tool for removing Nazi suspects. But records show the U.S. State Department and the Social Security Administration voiced grave concerns over the methods used by the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit, the Office of Special Investigations.
State officials derogatorily called the practice “Nazi dumping” and claimed the OSI was bargaining with suspects so they would leave voluntarily.
Since 1979, the AP analysis found, at least 38 of 66 suspects removed from the United States kept their Social Security benefits.
Legislation that would have closed the Social Security loophole failed 15 years ago, partly due to opposition from the OSI. Since then, according to the AP’s analysis, at least 10 Nazi suspects kept their benefits after leaving. The Social Security Administration confirmed payments to seven who are deceased. One living suspect was confirmed through an AP interview. Two others met the conditions to keep their benefits.
Of the 66 suspects, at least four are alive, living in Europe on U.S. Social Security.
In newly uncovered Social Security Administration records, the AP found that by March 1999, 28 suspected Nazi criminals had collected $1.5 million in Social Security payments after their removal from the U.S….(read more)
Herschaft reported from New York and Lardner from Washington.
Associated Press writers Gene Johnson in Seattle; Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington; Darko Bandic in Osijek; Monika Scislowska in Warsaw; and Eric Tucker and Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington contributed to this report.