On Monday, an exhaustive two-year Associated Press investigation concluded in which it was determined that dozens of former Nazis collectively received millions of dollars in Social Security benefits from the United States. Worse yet, according to the report, once these former Nazis were discovered, payments continued after they were expelled from the country in a bid to encourage them to leave the United States peacefully.
"Since 1979," the AP analysis found, "at least 38 of 66 suspects removed from the country kept their Social Security benefits," the report read. These weren't lightweights either. Suspected activities of the recipients range from participation in the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto to the use of slave labor and the round-up and killing of thousands of Jews. At least four of these men are said to still be alive and receiving money from American taxpayers.
One of the many unsettling revelations from the AP report:
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.
One enduring criticism of the American response to World War II is the belated enactment of a rescue policy for Jewish refugees seeking to emigrate to the United States. It wasn't until 1944, roughly two years after the systematic deportation and extermination of Europe's Jews had begun, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the most aggressive action to aid the persecuted millions by creating the War Refugee Board.
Decades later, historians continue to debate what more could have been done beyond the military effort that ultimately brought about the war's end. The unfilled immigration quotas from Roosevelt's first term continue to haunt his record. In 1942, in another symbolic step, Roosevelt promised that all war criminals would be pursued at the war's end.
That unfortunate history only adds to the messy dimensions of this story. It's not just the idea that former Nazis found safe haven in the United States, and it's not just that the former Nazis were able to flourish and pay enough into the American system to ultimately receive benefits, although that's certainly part of it as well.
Beyond all this, and the fact that thousands of people were denied this opportunity in America, the loophole that allows the payments is still open. Meanwhile, according to the Office of Special Investigations' own figures, only ten of the men who were removed from the United States were ever actually prosecuted for their crimes.