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Ex-Nazis Received Social Security Payments From America

Dozens of former Nazis are suspected of collecting millions in Social Security in return for exiting the country

(Photo: CORBIS)
smithsonian.com

For years, dozens of former Nazis have been collecting Social Security checks from the U.S., the Associated Press reports.

After their identity as war criminals or SS guards was revealed and they left the country, these people continued to take advantage of a "legal loophole" that the Justice Department seems to use to convince former Nazis to pack their bags. According to government documents and extensive interviews conducted by the AP, former Nazis are allowed to retain their Social Security benefits so long as they agree to leave. 

A two-year investigation conducted by the AP revealed that 38 of 66 expelled Nazis have been allowed to keep their benefits since 1979—including 10 people in the past 15 years. Beneficiaries of this policy, the AP continues, include SS guards who manned concentration camps; a guard involved in annihilating the Warsaw ghetto, which resulted in 13,000 Jewish deaths; and a physicist who used "slave labor" to help build rockets that the Germans used to bomb London. The AP wasn't able to attain exact figures of how much those former Nazis have cost the U.S., but the reporters estimate that it totals well into the millions. Just because someone's a Nazi war criminal, the AP was told, doesn't mean their privacy can be violated. 

Former Nazis cannot be tried in the U.S., because they are almost always non-Americans whose alleged crimes took place outside the country, the AP points out. The idea behind expelling them is that they can be returned to their own country and tried for their crimes there. But almost none of the expelled Nazis ever faced charges after leaving the U.S., the AP continues. 

Although the Justice Department failed to shut the Social Security payment loophole down in 1999 when it came up for review, a spokesman insists that "the department neither used retirement benefits as an inducement to leave the country and renounce citizenship nor threatened that failure to depart and renounce would jeopardize continued receipt of benefits.” Those within the department, however, often referred to the practice as "Nazi dumping," the AP adds.  Justice Department officials declined to comment for the story. 

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